A mother’s decision to breastfeed her child is a very personal one. Some women choose to, some choose not to, and others aren’t even afforded the choice. That was the case for new Florida mom Annie Muscato, who was looking forward to breastfeeding her child until she encountered difficulty. When she decided to try something new and purchase formula for her baby, she was greeted with criticism in the form of a stranger telling her, “Breast is best.” Now, Muscato is raising awareness about breastfeeding complications with a viral Facebook letter addressed to the woman who unnecessarily called her out.
Muscato had long believed “breast is best” and knew that she wanted to breastfeed her child. She and her husband took a 4-hour breastfeeding class while she was pregnant, and they met with a lactation consultant before leaving the hospital with their newborn. But complications arose while breastfeeding her daughter. Her daughter screamed and writhed in pain after nursing—often, as Muscato described it, she was “inconsolable.” Muscato tried a variety of solutions—slow flow bottles of breast milk, breastfeeding from different positions, meetings with other lactation consultants—but her daughter continued to scream and cry.
“We have been to see the pediatrician at least twice a week since she has been born,” Muscato wrote in her letter. “I tried cutting soy, dairy, and leafy greens from my diet to make my milk more digestible for her. I have pumped—and I’m still pumping—enough to have hundreds of ounces of breast milk in my freezer even though she will likely never be able to eat it. All because ‘breast is best.’”
And when Muscato bought that formula from the store—the exact formula the stranger criticized her for purchasing? Her daughter stopped screaming and crying. She began smiling and interacting with those around her. And she finally started sleeping. “And I cried,” Muscato wrote. “Because I thought breast was best. I thought my body failed her. I thought she wouldn’t be as healthy on formula … So, dear stranger, next time you see someone buying formula, try to remember that mamas should support each other. Think about everything you might not know. Remind yourself that ‘fed is best,’ and smile because it means someone loves their baby enough to do what’s best for them.”
Here Is the Letter
Dear Stranger in Target,
You didn’t need to tell me, “breast is best” as I was buying a can of baby formula, because I already know.
I know that my husband and I excitedly took the four hour breast feeding class when I was pregnant.
I know that my baby immediately did skin to skin and ate from my breast within an hour of her birth, because it was important to me.
I know that we saw a lactation consultant before we took her home, and again a few weeks later.
I know that we struggled at first. That some nights we both cried together. That my dear friends swore it would get better. I know they were right, and it did.
I know “breast is best” just like you do.
But, let me tell you what else I know.
I know that my baby began screaming after she ate. Writhing in pain. Inconsolable.
I know over the last month and a half I have exclusively pumped and tried slow flow bottles of breast milk, I have tried different positions, I have seen another lactation consultant.
I know I have held my child, my baby, while she screamed for hours- one day for eight hours straight.
I know we have been to see the pediatrician at least twice a week since she has been born.
I know that I tried cutting soy, and dairy, and leafy greens from my diet to make my milk more digestible for her.
I have pumped- and I’m still pumping- enough to have hundreds of ounces of breast milk in my freezer even though she will likely never be able to eat it.
All because “breast is best.”
And then finally, we tried the hypoallergenic dairy protein free formula you saw me buying today. And the screaming lessened. And my baby started smiling. She started interacting. She started sleeping.
And I cried. Because I thought breast was best. I thought my body failed her. I thought she wouldn’t be as healthy on formula.
I know you think I must not care or I’m lazy, or maybe you were genuinely trying to be helpful and thought no one had ever told me the benefits of breast feeding.
But, you are wrong. What I know that you don’t is that breast ISN’T always best. I know happy, healthy baby is best. I know FED is best.
What I’m sure we both know is that parenting is hard. Really hard. That sometimes what we plan for and what we want just doesn’t work out, but we are all here trying to do what’s best for our babies.
So, dear stranger, next time you see someone buying formula, try to remember that mamas should support each other. Think about everything you might not know. Remind yourself that “fed is best” and smile because it means someone loves their baby enough to do what’s best for them.
Another Mom Doing Her Best and a Happier Formula Fed Baby
P.S. Dear friends, please feel free to share this in the hopes the people who need the reminder see it. (And I will in turn promise not to bombard your wall with any more essays about parenting!)