The Startling FFF Disclosure Post

I was recently alerted that there’s a Facebook page whose status updates and threads mostly focus on finding new ways to insult me. Insults about my intelligence, my motivation, my writing (that one hurts the most, to be honest). And of course, it is chock full of the requisite accusations that I am being paid by the formula industry to write this blog.

My reaction to this isn’t outrage or horror, but rather a half-hearted meh. I’m used to this crap by now. Between my writing and acting careers, I’ve dealt with my fair share of ego-blows, and my skin is appropriately thick. I know what I write about isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (And some people really don’t like tea.) Also, I’ve realized I’d better get used to it, because with my book coming out in a few months, I’ll likely be attracting more vitriol and suspicion than ever.

Then today it hit me… I’ll likely be attracting more vitriol and suspicion than ever. Holy hell. I’m going to get sick of defending myself pretty quickly.

So in honor of the vitriol and suspicion I expect to be arriving at my door in lieu of royalty checks (because let’s be real, books make no money these days, especially for first time writers authoring academic tomes about infant feeding), here is my “Startling Disclosure Post To Save Those Who Think I’m a Shill for “Big Forma” From Endless Hours of (Mostly) Fruitless Investigation“.


Well, hello there, vitriolic and suspicious individual! I assume you’ve come here because you are trying to unearth some dirt about me. As a researcher myself, I know how time consuming this can be. And since, if you’re trying to expose me, my very existence has likely caused you hours of consternation already, I figured I’d do you a solid and save you the work.

A dark (chocolate) past

From an early age, the FFF really liked TV. Even the commercials. And there was one, with a supremely catchy jingle, which she used to go around humming:

N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle’s makes the very best…chooooclate.

In her defense, she had no idea that Nestle had done despicable things in the third world. Ever since finding this out, she has done intense approach-avoidance therapy to get the ditty out of her head. She’s even resorted to listening to Carly Rae Jepson *to overwrite the catchiness of the dreaded company’s jingle. Hey, I’ve just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s the truth, so lay off me, maybe?

Still, there is no denying that she has eaten her fair share of Crunch Bars. I’m sure she’d plead that this does not mean she is in any way condoning Nestle’s actions in regards to formula marketing, but that it just means she is addicted to sugar. Liar, liar, pants on fire.

*warning – if you click on this link and hear this song, you may never get it out of your head. I mean never. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

An Insidious “Reality” Check

Back in 2008, when FFF was still pursuing her acting career, she applied – on a lark – for a reality show about expectant parents. She somehow convinced her husband to go along with it (although it was probably the lure of a year’s worth of free diapers rather than her powers of persuasion that pushed him over the edge) and the two ended up being featured for the remaining six months of their pregnancy on a web series for The original series was 100% breastfeeding friendly – so much so that they casually glossed over how she was feeding her baby in the wrap-up episode, rather than using the footage from the planned breastfeeding episode (because that footage was so horrifying and depressing that if they had used it, it would have been perceived as far more anti-breastfeeding than it would be to avoid the subject of infant feeding altogether).

About a year later- right around the time FFF was pitching her book to publishers – she was contacted by the producers and asked if she and her family would be willing to be part of a follow-up series on parenting young kids, also for Pampers. The family agreed, signed contracts, and began filming.

That series ended up being hosted not only on the Pampers site as originally planned, but also the website of baby food company Beech Nut, and… wait for it… Similac. A formula company.

::waiting for the audible gasps::

Yes, it’s true. One might say that the FFF indirectly received money from Similac for being part of a documentary series about parenting. Granted, the money she received was actually from the independent, completely non-formula-industry-connected LA production company who created the series, who later sold the rights to Similac. Granted, the series followed three families, two of whom were parenting toddlers well past the traditional breastfeeding/formula days, and one with a newborn who was exclusively breastfed. And granted, the FFF had no control over what happened to the series once she was signed on to it, which is evidenced by the fact that while she was writing this post, and went to find the links for the videos, she discovered that certain organizations have been using the videos to support a particular political cause which she absolutely does not agree with, and the thought of this really makes her want to scream oh holy hell why did I sell my soul for a couple of free diapers… But these things shouldn’t matter. What matters is that we now have proof – the FFF was partially funded by a formula company!!

(Don’t believe her when she gives the lame excuse that the formula company didn’t even know she wrote about formula feeding at the time, no one ever interviewed her prior to filming about her experiences with breastfeeding, and that the series had fudge-all to do with her platform as the FFF, but rather the fact that the first Pampers series did really well, probably because no one knew about her controversial alter-ego. Or that the main reason that she had used a nom de plume for her blog in the first place was because she’d been worried it might reflect poorly on Pampers if anyone found out that their poster child for motherhood was a formula feeding blogger.)

You can see the series on YouTube still (I’m a bit surprised that none of you have brought this up yet, as it’s pretty easy to find, and certainly no secret.) Take a look, and prepare to be shocked at the overwhelming evidence that FFF is in fact a pawn of the formula industry, not a person with feelings and friends and flab and opinions which were formed through countless hours of research and introspection.

The original – A Parent is Born

The second season –  Welcome to Parenthood

Further Evidence That FFF, AKA Suzanne Barston, is Evil Incarnate

Now that the jig is up, and we know that FFF is really Suzanne Barston, a Nestle-jingle-singing member of the infant formula cabal, let’s dig a little deeper into her sordid personal life:

  • Once (maybe three times) her daughter ate dog food because Suzanne wasn’t paying attention. 

  • Her husband is a photographer, and one of his biggest clients is a lingerie company. In other words, he is contributing to the sexualization of breasts. Thankfully, the breasts in question are mostly silicone. So he’s mostly contributing to the sexualization of silicone.

  • She doesn’t always recycle.

  • She bribes her kids with gummy worms.

  • She really likes the band Phish, which we all know means that she is a dirty hippie and most likely a drug addict. 

  • She watches The Bachelor. And not in an ironic sort of way.

  • She used to be an actress. Not only is she not an academic or physician, she spent the majority of her adult years essentially playing make believe for a living. She’s probably a really good liar, which is why she’s been able to convince so many women that formula feeding isn’t something to feel guilty about. (Let’s ignore the fact that she must not have been a very good actress, considering she now runs a money pit of a blog and eeks out a living writing articles about gout rather than starring in The Office.) 

  • She went on a few dates in high school with the guy who wrote Go The F**k to Sleep. This makes sense, because morally questionable people who hate babies are attracted to each other!

  • For the majority of her first pregnancy, she was seriously concerned that she could never love a baby as much as she loved her dog. 

  • She went to Northwestern University, which is known to have ties to the formula industry. (Okay, I totally made that one up, but who knows. They might.)
  • She’s a snarky smartass who is totally belittling the fact that anyone who has the nerve to have an alternative opinion on the subject of formula feeding is assumed to be benefiting from it financially. She might even have the nerve to argue that there are plenty of people making money off breastfeeding moms, from pumps to breastfeeding fashions to breastmilk screening kits to lactation services, and that it would be really nice if all breastfeeding-related bloggers would take a pledge to cease all advertising of these products and services immediately so that their blogs will not be affected by sponsor bias.  She’d probably think it was funny to sarcastically accuse people like Jack Newman of being in the pockets of the nursing bra industry, because what other financial incentive could he have to write books about breastfeeding? Seriously, that FFF is an idiot, because anyone who writes with zealous intolerance about parenting is doing it for purely altruistic and noble reasons, while people who advocate for acceptance and support of all parenting and feeding methods are delusional jerks. Or paid by the formula companies. One or the other.

Hopefully, that should give you enough fuel for your anti-FFF fire. If not, feel free to make some stuff up. Just make it really juicy, okay? The Bachelor is on hiatus and I am seriously in need of some good made-up drama.

The more things change, the more they… change.

I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone who read the galleys of my book.  This woman breastfed two children successfully in the late 80’s and 90’s when this feeding method was certainly not the norm; breastfeeding rates didn’t start really going up until the past decade, when campaigns like the log-rolling, mechanical bull-riding DHHS one began to to kick things into high gear.

Anyway, she had a good experience breastfeeding; she told me she never really experienced much pressure in either direction, and while she was aware that breastfeeding had become far more of an issue in society, she had no clue that formula feeding had become so vilified.  Her exact words were “I had no idea how bad it had gotten.”

I know it sounds ridiculous, but this comment provoked a tremendous revelation for me. Imagine a cartoon image of the FFF (imaginary-draw me with a better figure and less wrinkles, will you?) being hit with a lightening bolt, next to the caption “Doh!

Of course this person didn’t know how bad it had gotten. She hadn’t given birth in the last 5 years, when the pressure to breastfeed has gotten so ridiculously out of control. And neither have the vast majority of big-time breastfeeding advocates or policy makers, let alone the folks reading the various newspaper editorials and commenting on the heated threads of media-reported breastfeeding studies.

See where I’m going with that “Doh”?

I have had two kids in the past four years, and honestly, I saw a marked difference in the amount of breastfeeding pressure I experienced from one baby to the next. In 2008, it was tough to end up in the formula feeding category; still, most of the vitriol I encountered was the online variety, save for a few  overbearing physicians and mommy-and-me instructors. By the time I delivered Fearlette in the end of 2010, even my childless, motorcycle-driving, gun-wielding neighbor threw me a look when he saw my bottle. And since I have my eyes on what’s happening in the breast/bottle scene, I can say without a doubt that things are just getting worse.  I don’t know if these changes were spurred by Hannah Rosin taking a stand, or Joan Wolf questioning the science, or the Call to Action announced by the US government – but one thing is clear: infant feeding has become part of the national dialogue, and gone far beyond a trivial mommy war.

Mary wore the hairshirt, sans the “F”. Source:

If you were a breastfeeding advocate who’d had children before this new front blew in, you might think my pleas for a ceasefire are nonsensical. Kind of like when my mom complains she’s cold on a temperate, 78 degree day. But then again, my mom happens to be super-skinny (like 85 pounds soaking wet), and those without any padding can have issues with temperature regulation. Likewise, women giving birth today have been stripped of the padding when it comes to breastfeeding pressure; no longer are we cushioned by “encouragement” to breastfeed, but rather thrown out onto a cold street with a hairshirt labeled with a big, scarlet “F” should we fail to meet expectations; if we end up being “suboptimal” in our feeding methods.

If you’d been a new parent in a different, not-so-long-ago time, you might think things aren’t so bad. You might brush off feelings like guilt, saying that “no one can make you feel guilty”. That’s easy to say when no one has told a 3-day postpartum You that your inability to breastfeed, or your choice not to, is damning your child to a life of poor health and low intellect. (It’s also easy to say when you’re someone who has never been through this kind of hell, or when you have a penis rather than a vagina and are therefore of the non-lactating persuasion.)

If you’d been a new parent back in, say, the 1970’s or early 80’s, when breastfeeding rates were at an all-time low, it might be easy to laugh at the stories we tell on this blog. Because nobody’s really telling formula feeders they are bad parents. It’s being a breastfeeding mom that’s hard. (Which don’t get me wrong, it can be. I think you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, in this regard. But that doesn’t mean formula feeders have it any easier- it’s just that our challenges come in different flavors. My platform is that we can’t protect one group of parents by shaming or neglecting the other – we all need to be supported in feeding our babies in the way that works best for our given situation.)

If you’d been a new parent even ten years ago, when breastfeeding began to be more popular, but three months was considered medically sufficient, and six months was considered ideal, you might not fully comprehend what this breast/bottle debate is all about. You might think hey, it wasn’t so hard to breastfeed, not realizing that by today’s standards, the fact that you stopped after 4 months and had been giving relief bottles every now and then would be considered abject failure by many respected experts.

If you haven’t given birth or adopted an infant since before Obama was in office, and don’t plan to again, you might not care that much about infant feeding “wars”. And that’s okay; I get that many things begin to take on graver meaning, like ensuring a good education (we’re facing that now and I swear I’m *this* close to closing down FFF and starting the Fearless Public School Parent in a Really Awful, Underfunded District blog, but then I remember Sandra Tsing Loh beat me to it), drugs, teen sex, and so forth.

But for the breastfeeding advocates, physicians, psychologists, and media pundits out there, whose voices matter in this discourse: please, for the love of god, take a minute to consider that things may have changed dramatically since you were buying Size 1 diapers. This has nothing to do with the benefits of breastfeeding, nor am I belittling your efforts to make the world friendlier for nursing moms (which I appreciate and thank you for), but it is important that you realize this fact. You need to understand what it is to be a mom in 2012, when the internet has all but usurped the “real” world; when Facebook pages are not just about reconnecting with high school flames but are used to discuss parenting styles and form “groups” which simply exist to hate on other peoples’ choices; when a scathing blog post has the power to change the face of advocacy in a disturbingly negative way; when the media has covered stories which state that women who “fail to comply” with breastfeeding recommendations are costing our country innocent lives and billions of dollars.

I know everyone says the more things change, the more they stay the same. In this case that does not hold true. Things are not the same. The sooner society at large realizes this, the sooner this discussion will begin to evolve.

Or at least I hope it will. If it doesn’t, the silver lining is that I think I’d look pretty cool in a hairshirt.

The Bull(shit) That Wouldn’t Die: The 2003 DHHS Breastfeeding Ad Rears its Ugly Head

I had fully intended on coming on here tonight to post for the first time in months; easing back into  things with an innocuous little piece about how my first four months with my daughter had been… It would be a lighthearted foray back into the blogging world, and then I’d go clean my kitchen.

But now my dishes are going to have to stay dirty.

See, back in ’03, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health, put out this piece of drivel. It basically compares not breastfeeding to riding a mechanical bull while pregnant.

I have an entire chapter about this in my book, but I think you’ll get the point I spent 32 double-spaced pages making by watching the ad. So go do it, and then come back here.

 Back already? Did you throw up in your mouth a little? Sorry about that.

A lot of people got angry about the ad,  not only because it was misleading, but also because it was degrading and insulting and wrong on so many levels that it needs a freaking elevator. The Executive Committee of the AAP spoke out against the campaign, which of course they only did because they were in the pockets of big formula, and not because they had compassion for parents or the ability to understand the faulty science behind the claims stated in the ad. Or so the Breastfeeding Section of that same organization loves to tell us. Anyway, in the end, the ads got pulled; a lot of breastfeeding advocates were pissed; and the whole thing went down in the lactivist history books as a colossal FAIL. I’ve seen the destruction of this ad campagin referenced as one of the prime examples of how the formula companies have duped women. If we’d only been so privileged to see this ad, then maybe we would have breastfed. Or at least we would’ve known that we were horrible, unfit parents if we’d decided not to.

A few people had mentioned that they thought they’d seen the ad recently, to which I’d replied, assuredly,  “No flipping way. That thing has been good and dead for eight years!” But then I got this email today, from my friend  Kristine (she doesn’t have kids yet, but she’s a smart cookie and works as a high-end baby nurse, where she’s seen the breast-vs-bottle craziness firsthand, so I think we can consider her an honorary FFF) who wrote while she was watching Southern California’s K-CAL 9:

Um.. I’m so annoyed – they just showed a tv commercial with a woman who was supposed to be pregnant riding a mechanical bull and then she falls off. Next, there is a caption that says, “You wouldn’t take risks before your baby is born, why start after? Breastfeed exclusively for 6 months.” And then, a voiceover states that recent studies show breastfed babies are less likely to develop ear infections, respiratory infections and diarrhea. Babies were born to be breastfed.”  You probably already know about this from writing your book, but I wish there was a way to sue the pants off of them for putting that on the air. That commercial probably just made some poor woman, that’s sitting there trying to breastfeed, no milk coming out, her nipples bleeding, and her starving child screaming, cry her eyes out. Assholes. 

I immediately emailed her back to confirm she’d seen this on live TV, and hadn’t accidentally stepped into a Delorean. But the Bull(shit) is apparently back.

I think it is particularly insidious that this thing got resurrected with so little fanfare. Considering the brouhaha that went down when DHHS and the Ad Council tried to run the ad last time, it strikes me as odd that they would suddenly start running it again, especially in a manner so under the radar. The first time the ads came out, there was a media blitz; the folks responsible were bragging about their advertising genius to anyone who would listen. (Obviously, whoever taught them Advertising 101 neglected to mention that guilt and fear appeals can have a rebound effect; if you scare or induce guilt to enough of an extent, you piss off your audience.) But this go-around, the ads are popping up innocently during reruns of Scrubs, and no one has bothered to explain what has changed in eight years that makes it okay for these insulting, ridiculous PSAs to be inflicted on the public.

I would like to start a grassroots campaign to run these ads back into the hole from whence they came. I’m not sure how to go about doing this; PSA’s are tricky, both in the way they are made and the way that they get distributed. Who do we protest to? The stations running the ads? The Ad Council? DHHS? (I’m thinking of writing a letter to Obama, since DHHS is a government thing, but considering Michelle’s stance on breastfeeding I assume it would fall on deaf ears. Plus he’s probably a bit distracted at the moment, what with finally killing Bin Laden and all….) If anyone has any thoughts, please share. I know we are just a tiny, mostly disliked corner of the mommy blogosphere, but someone has to speak up for that woman Kristine referenced.

And speaking of which… Guilt-Ridden Woman with the Bleeding Nipples, if you’re reading this, listen up. Not breastfeeding is NOTHING like bull riding while pregnant. The people who created this ad fully intended on scaring you, making you feel like only a craptastic mother would feed her child formula. The ads completely ignore the myriad reasons that women do not breastfeed. They do not address the societal factors that impede breastfeeding, nor the physical problems that can happen, nor the emotional/professional/personal reasons that women have for performing their own risk assessment and deciding whether breastfeeding is right for their families. They ignore the father completely, making it seem like this is only a mother’s decision; only a mother’s fault. They over-simplify the science. The kind of woman who would risk riding a mechanical bull – in a bar, no less – has nothing to do with you or your decision to use your breasts to feed your child. Turn off your television, and take a deep breath. If I could hug you, I would.

For the rest of you… I guess this is the closest we’ve come to a Fearless Formula Feeder Call to Arms. I am going to investigate the best way to counteract these ads, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for them and let me know the station/location/time/show that they appear on.

I’m a lifelong vegetarian, so I never thought I’d say this, but… let’s slaughter the bull.

British people are cool

About six months ago, when I was seeking experts to interview for my book, I considered contacting a well-known British researcher by the name of Alan Lucas. Problem was, I couldn’t tell where he stood on things. It’s not that I only wanted to talk to folks who agreed with everything I thought – it was simply that at this particular point in the process, I was attempting to speak with researchers who’d strayed from the party line, to see if they’d essentially been “silenced” by bad press and accusations of being in bed with Big Formula. But I wasn’t sure if Lucas was the right guy to talk to; while I found some of his research really interesting and potentially controversial (for example, he worked on one study that suggested our Western diets may not be well-suited to breastfeeding), he was also one of the first people to support the breastfeeding-leads-to-higher-IQ argument, and his work is cited by a plethora of lactivist literature. (For example, in one article about a study he did on breastfeeding and later heart disease, he said “It is quite possible that hundreds of thousands of deaths in the west are prevented by breastfeeding and many more would be prevented if the uptake of breastfeeding were greater.” Ironically, he also authored a different study warning that prolonged breastfeeding could cause hardening of the arteries. Not sure what the message is here – breastfeed, but not for too long…??)  So while a small section of his CV may have been controversial, it seemed that he was still relatively beloved by breastfeeding advocates.

In hindsight, he probably would’ve been a fascinating guy to talk to, for just this reason. Here was someone who managed to ask some potentially damning questions and remain unscathed – perhaps because he’d paid his dues by providing ample research supporting breastfeeding?

Anyway. I was thinking about Lucas a lot today, since his name was on the list of authors for this “Analysis” from the British Medical Journal which has been causing quite a stir. Entitled “Six months of exclusive breastfeeding: how good is the evidence?”, the piece is basically a review of what know, to date, about breastfeeding duration/exclusivity, delayed introduction of solids, and the risk for allergies and celiac disease (obesity is also briefly mentioned). The authors contend that WHO recommendations (6 months exclusive breastfeeding) may not necessarily be appropriate for those in developed countries. Speaking of the adoption of WHO recommendations, they suggest that “…the evidence base supporting a major, population-wide change in public health policy underwent surprisingly little scrutiny” in the first place, and that a “reappraisal of the evidence is timely in view of new data.”

The most interesting point that these authors make is that since delaying solids – especially ones with high risk for allergy- has become common practice, the incidence of food allergies and celiac’s disease have risen. Other than that, there’s really nothing all that controversial in the paper, which is why I find it amusing that it’s pissed so many people off . There was a veritable media shitstorm that occurred in the last 24 hours surrounding this paper, mostly from the breastfeeding advocacy front, who took it as a direct attack on breastfeeding. But the authors actually make a point to say that they are advocating an earlier introduction of solids (4 months versus 6 months), not formula; they are simply questioning if breastmilk alone is the ideal diet for those in developed countries after a certain point. In other words, they are still saying that women should breastfeed rather than formula feed, but that it might be advisable to offer foods along with breastmilk after four months. Not a huge deal, one would think.

One would be wrong, apparently. Within hours of the media coverage surrounding this analysis, not only were the blogs and Twitter were abuzz, reputable organizations like Baby Milk Action were freaking out, accusing the authors of being funded by baby food companies (apparently it’s not just formula makers who are out to undermine breastfeeding, but the makers of blended chicken and carrots, too. Personally, I think there is something inherently evil about blended chicken and carrots, but I doubt it’s the same kind of evil these folks are talking about).

But Lucas, and my new hero, Mary Fewtrell, who seems like the coolest cucumber ever, are taking this all in stride. And their attitudes are what I’m really excited about. Sure, the analysis is cool; I think there’s probably some truth to the assertion that earlier introduction of solids is better for us in the long run, but they aren’t the first to bring this up. It’s what’s between the lines of this analysis – and what its authors have said in the press – which really gets the FFF in me all riled up. Read the BMJ piece for yourself; it’s available for free here. Other than that, I want to submit the following as evidence for why I have good reason to think these authors are, as the kids like to say, “da bomb”:

1. They question WHO’s infant feeding recommendations, which is Simply. Not. Done.

2. They make reference to the fact that studies regarding breastfeeding are inherently flawed: “Apart from two randomised trials in Honduras, the studies were observational, precluding proof of causation for the outcomes examined, since residual or unidentified confounding may remain even after adjusting for potential confounders…”

3. They say this: “It can be argued that, from a biological perspective, the point when breast milk ceases to be an adequate sole source of nutrition would not be expected to be fixed, but to vary according to the infant’s size, activity, growth rate, and sex, and the quality and volume of the breast milk supply,” to which I say YESYESYESYESYES.

4. In interviews regarding the study, Alan Lucas explained that  “The WHO recommendation is very sensible for developing countries…But in the UK, it’s important we take a balanced look at the evidence.” Fewtrell told the Guardian that “she supported the WHO recommendation, but… that it needed to be interpreted differently in different countries. Exclusive breastfeeding protects against infections, which is critical in developing countries, but less important in the UK where hygiene and sanitation are better. ‘There’s only one piece of evidence relevant to babies in the UK – a slightly decreased risk of gastroenteritis,'” She also wrote off the criticism the study has received because she and some of the other study authors had worked with commercial baby food companies within the past three years (a conflict openly divulged in BMJ, incidentally), saying “This is not an attempt to promote commercial weaning foods…We are a university and Medical Research Council-funded group”, member of whom had “advised babyfood manufacturers because they were specialists in child nutrition”.

5. Fewtrell also provided my absolute favorite quote of the day, earning her a permanent place in the FFF Hall of Heroes: “Some organisations are all too happy to quote our data when it supports breastfeeding,” she said. “They are choosy in what they will allow.”

Word to your mom. Or actually, word to all moms. The truth is out there; we just need some more kick-ass women like Fewtrell to help us find it.

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….

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