"Breast is best." Ask any mom what that phrase means, and she'll tell you. It's virtually impossible to have a baby in the US in 2016 and not know the message behind that marketing phrase — breastfeeding is better for babies than formula.
So when Annie Ferguson Muscato, a new mom from Gainesville, FL, was at her local Target buying a can of baby formula, she didn't need a random stranger to tell her, "Breast is best." She knew that already. What she probably didn't know, however, was that the emotional open letter she wrote to her fellow shopper, which she posted to her Facebook page, would instantly go viral for all the right reasons.
In the letter, she shares her story of how she did all the right things — "my husband and I excitedly took the four-hour breastfeeding class when I was pregnant," "my baby immediately did skin-to-skin and ate from my breast within an hour of her birth," and "we saw a lactation consultant before we took her home."
But, she explained, breastfeeding didn't go according to the plans she carefully laid out: "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."
When she tried a "hypoallergenic dairy protein-free formula," her baby finally started smiling, interacting, and sleeping.
"And I cried," she wrote. "Because I thought breast was best. I thought my body failed her."
She didn't need a random person to shame her choice, yet she understood why it happened:
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 breastfeeding. 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.
That's likely why her moving letter has been shared more than 37,000 times. Of the nearly 10,000 comments, most are from moms in Annie's same situation — sharing their struggles with nursing and their decisions for switching to formula — with little support from a culture that knows, perhaps all too well, that "breast is best."