Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

U.S. Delegates Opposed an International Resolution That Supported Breastfeeding

U.S. Delegates Opposed an International Resolution That Supported Breastfeeding

President Trump rejected accusations on Monday from a New York Times report that said the USA worked against a breastfeeding amendment at the World Health Assembly.

USA officials fought to remove phrases calling for governments to "protect, promote and support breastfeeding" and a section calling on lawmakers to tighten regulations on the promotion of products that experts say have harmful effects on children.

Initially, the Trump administration wanted to remove language that called on governments to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding" as well as another portion of the resolution that asked lawmakers to restrict promoting food that can be harmful to young children. Under pressure from the infant formula industry, US officials threatened retaliatory trade and military measures if Ecuador moved forward, according to the Times.

"Though Ecuador withdrew its support for the resolution, Russian delegates took up its sponsorship, and the measure passed, amended partially by the USA in two ways: "language was removed offering World Health Organization support for nations trying to stop 'inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children", and the phrase "'evidence-based" was added to some provisions about advertisements supporting breastfeeding. In addition, universal breastfeeding could save $300 billion in reduced health care costs and improved economic prospects for children.

We're told the USA threatened Ecuador with punishing trade measures and the removal of military aid.

"The United States believed the resolution as originally drafted called on states to erect hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children", said a State Department official.

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On July 8, The New York Times reported the Trump administration opposed a breastfeeding policy Ecuador planned to introduce during the World Health Assembly.

An Ecuadorian official said that his government did not anticipate the harshness of America's response. It added that "not all women are able to breastfeed", and they "should have the choice and access to alternatives". Breastfed babies usually get sick less often, because breast milk contains antibodies that can protect infants from bacterial and viral infections. "We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons".

The recommendations are based on an established body of evidence showing breastmilk is nutritionally, economically and ecologically superior to formula or other breastmilk substitutes. Most of the sources requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from USA officials. Their sales have increased, however, in developing countries.

The Times characterized the dispute at the World Health Assembly as "the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on numerous public health and environmental issues". "At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?"

But in the US, disparities in race, income and geography underscore the work that's left to do to support USA mothers who want to give their infants breastmilk.

"They also had co-sponsored the original resolution so they were very supportive of the breastfeeding protection mechanisms in the resolution so we really have to commend them for that".

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