"Dear stranger, I know breast is best. But..." A mother's viral response to formula shaming.

It never ceases to amaze us at Mamamia that people think Mums somehow missed the message that breast is best.

It’s as if some people think we slept through that part of their antenatal class.

And through the question, ‘how do you want to feed your baby?’ that’s asked in every midwife appointment ever.

And through the parts where your breasts are literally manhandled like a cow by well-meaning lactation consultants trying to help you get the baby to latch.

And through the tsunami of hormonal shit that hits you on day three when you milk may or may not come in.

At least, that’s probably what the person who said, “breast is best” to Annie Ferguson Muscato, a Florida mother, as she reached for a tin of infant formula in her local grocery shop thought.

When Annie got home, she wrote a response to being very publicly shamed on her Facebook page.

Her response has gone viral, and has been covered extensively in the US.

Annie writes,

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 paediatrician 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!)

Mums are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Mums are publicly shamed, told to cover up, told that feeding their babies is something to be hidden away, if they breastfeed in public.

And Mums are judged as somehow neglectful, a bad mum, if she, for whatever reason, decides that she wants to feed her baby with formula – including the very valid reason that she might just not want to breastfeed.

We’re well past time we all leave team boob and team bottle, and join team feed the hungry baby.

And we’re well past time perfect strangers join team support the tired new mum.

WATCH: The Mamamia team get real about birth.