Is breast always best? One Florida mom’s Facebook post on the subject has gone viral and is making people think twice about it. The breastfeeding versus formula feeding debate is a divisive issue for moms everywhere. While Annie Ferguson Muscato was shopping at her local Target one day, she experienced that debate being thrown in her face.
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…. I know ‘breast is best’ just like you do.
But for this mom, breastfeeding her daughter did not get easier. She describes the experience: “My baby began screaming after she ate. Writhing in pain. Inconsolable.” They even endured one eight-hour period of crying without ceasing. She says they saw lactation consultants, she altered her diet, and tried everything to make nursing work for her daughter, but the milk she produced caused her daughter a great deal of agony.
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.
Dear Stranger: If you had known this mom’s agony over the decision to use formula, would you have been so cavalier with your comment? If you had know you were rubbing salt into the very fresh wound of a new momma, would you have taken the time to talk to her that day?
Many moms wrestle with the decision to stop nursing. I have watched friends and family members put that decision off for weeks, hoping that someday things will “click” and everything will work like the textbooks say. But that “clicking” never happens. Tears are shed, plans are changed, and for the sake of the baby’s nourishment, formula is purchased. These poor moms do not know at the time that they will live with guilt over that decision every time they see a friend nurse with ease. All they know is that their baby is eating. Their baby is gaining weight, the pediatrician is happy with baby’s development, and everyone is resting easier. And then a random stranger inserts her wisdom into a situation she knows nothing about.
Sure, there are plenty of moms who never consider nursing. They dismiss all of the research that says breastfeeding is better for babies and decide formula is their only option because they do not want to put the effort into breastfeeding. But there are also moms whose milk supply never comes in. There are moms who adopt babies and never get the chance for their bodies to produce milk for their babies. There are moms like Muscato who do all the research, take all the classes, work with lactation consultants, change their diets and spend weeks sobbing over the part of motherhood they do not get to cherish.
Muscato closes her post:
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.
I hope you will think twice the next time you want to offer your advice to a mom in the formula aisle. I hope you will bite your tongue the next time you contemplate speaking into a situation about which you know nothing. Trust that the mom you see in that aisle is doing the very best she can to nourish her little one and keep walking. As Muscato reminds us, fed is best.