The letter opens, "Dear Stranger in Target," and goes on to say:
"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."
Annie's letter continues, shedding light on why she was in Target that day, buying the baby formula:
"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.'"
The anguished mom writes that when they finally tried hypoallergenic, dairy, protein-free formula, her baby's screaming stopped, and she started smiling, interacting, and sleeping. But Annie herself experienced horrible guilt. She says, "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."
The heart-wrenching letter ends, "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."
Annie pleads for the stranger to reconsider offering her two cents the next time she sees a mom buying formula. "Think about everything you might not know," she writes, adding "Remind yourself that 'fed is best' and smile because it means someone loves their baby enough to do what's best for them."
The comments to Annie's post are mostly supportive, with other moms sharing their own experiences being shamed for buying baby formula, and agreeing that "fed is best." Many thank Annie for writing this letter, and I must add my name to this list.
Because as a mom who formula-fed her three children, I too have been at the receiving end of plenty of well-intentioned "advice" about breast being best. I've even been questioned by people I barely know as to why I'm not breastfeeding. I won't tell my entire sordid tale about why breastfeeding didn't work for me, because I don't feel I should have to justify my decision. I chose formula for my children, who I love more than my own self.
So as Annie says, don't question me, or judge me. Just know that you don't know the whole story about me, or any other parent who chooses to feed their baby formula. And know we love our kids just as much as anyone who breastfeeds; that's why we're feeding them, after all.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.