Callate La Boca, FFF

If you haven’t noticed, the blog has been a bit neglected lately. That’s because the FFF has been crazy busy, traveling around the country conducting interviews for my book (which is all about the breastfeeding/formula feeding craziness, sort of a more detailed, cohesive, and polished version of the blog) which has found the most amazing home…I’m not going to discuss the details yet, as our contract is still being hashed out, but the editor involved is legendary and, I believe, the perfect person to bring this project to fruition, so I’m incredibly psyched about all of it.

Anyway, most of the people I’ve been talking to are relatively like-minded; they may not all share my personal beliefs on this debate, but their work has informed my own; I haven’t had to soften my approach or hedge around my true feelings about the pressure to breastfeed. Thus far, I’ve been blown away by the insights these folks have offered, and it’s been an incredibly positive experience. The purpose of the book is not to “prove” anything, just to give voice to an oft-silenced minority of more moderate voices, but it’s also my own journey to discover the whole truth about breastfeeding and formula feeding, and with each person I talk to, I learn something new – and usually pretty reassuring.

But. (Isn’t there always a “but”?)

Good reporting means hearing from all sides of a given story. It’s journalism 101, but unfortunately, these days, I think most journalists have been skipping class. As tempting as it is to stay in the “safe” zone and avoid talking to people whose opinions don’t mesh with mine, that wouldn’t make for a very interesting (or accurate or relevant) book, would it? So I’m jumping into the lion’s den. Roar.

Next week, I’m speaking with someone whose work I admire, but whose stance on the issues I write about really offends me. And I’m struggling with how to approach this interview. It’s a tricky one, because her area of expertise is somewhat separate from the larger concepts covered in my research; I want to focus on the work she has done, and what it can tell us about the historical background of infant feeding, and not be led off track by the formula-fed chip on my shoulder. That’s where I falter – because this isn’t some article I’m writing, it’s a book, and a very personal one at that. Do I stay neutral? Or do I challenge her on some of her beliefs? What if one benefits my research/writing, but harms my policy of being 100% honest about where I stand?

I’ll report back when it’s over, but for now, I’m thinking I should just sit back and listen. It’s a hard lesson to put into practice, as I think is evident from some of the comments that have been left on this blog and numerous others. It’s human nature for us to want to defend our choices and our opinions, to stand up for what we believe… and I think that’s a great thing. But sometimes, we can learn more by just shutting our mouths and truly absorbing what the other party has to say. Worst case, hearing an unadulterated POV from an opposing side allows you to strengthen your own argument; best case, you may actually find your views don’t differ as much as you believed.

Cheesy platitudes aside, I am actually kind of excited for this upcoming interview. It will be a challenge, and I love challenges, as much as my intestines don’t. (I have a nervous stomach. TMI, but there you go.)

Wish me luck, FFFs. Lion, meet mouse….

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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8 thoughts on “Callate La Boca, FFF

  1. Wow, I wish you named names! Good for you for choosing to listen first and then make a decision on reaction. I think if it is an intelligent conversation, a healthy debate is a good thing. However, if both sides aren't listening, best to practice that and lead by example. I'd say keep listening as your main goal and play it by ear as to whether you'll be heard and are hearing. Keep in mind, men debate as a sport, women could learn from them and keep it light even when the topic is heavy. Buena suerte chica!

  2. Unfortunately, sometimes people we respect come to conclusions we disagree with. Try to address the material respectfully and then, equally respectfully, tear it to bits 🙂 That's what discourse is all about.

  3. I definitely think you need to ask a few hard(er) questions. But I will support sitting back and listening. God knows I don't do that very often! I'm so proud of you, S.

  4. I don't see why you can't do both–sit back and listen, but challenge her views as you listen. Challenging someone's views makes you understand them better but may open your eyes to your own point of view. Just be open and fair as you do both.

  5. I hope you are going to look at diverse parts of the country for your book. After a discouraging experience visiting family in North Dakota and small town Minnesota this summer, being in a place where the pressure is on the breastfeeding side sounds frankly like a godsend right about now.

  6. I am the kind of person who would rather speak her mind. But I have learned that not speaking and just listening does not equal acceptance or approval. I am sure you will find a way to let this person know that you have a different pov without offending. And remember, though this is a personal topic for you, the interview itself does not need to be personal. It can just be business. Good luck!

  7. I have to agree with Alan (I know you're all shocked), but I would add a caveat that if you decide not to diversify the kinds of people and places you're discussing in your book, you should at the very least provide a detailed context of the kinds of interviews you have conducted.

    Sounds like you have some pretty exciting interviews lined up. Good luck!

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