Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

United States threatens nations over world breastfeeding resolution, shocking health officials

United States threatens nations over world breastfeeding resolution, shocking health officials

At a recent gathering of the World Health Assembly, the forum through which the World Health Organization governs and makes health recommendations, USA delegates caused a stir when they attempted to dissuade delegates from Ecuador from sponsoring a resolution to encourage breastfeeding. The resolution ended up passing, though the USA did succeed in getting the language altered slightly.

According to The Times, U.S. officials threatened harmful trade practices against Ecuador, who planned to introduce the initiative, unless they withdrew it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, followed by breastfeeding plus other appropriate, nutritious foods thereafter.

A New York Times piece published on Sunday about the purported opposition to breastfeeding by the the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, is stoking controversy.

Unfortunately, it seems that the USA had formula manufacturers' interests in mind during the Geneva talks.

Oakley said, "The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding".

Amongst other things, the resolution urges member states "to increase investment in development, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of laws, policies and programmes aimed at protection, promotion, including education and supportof breastfeeding" and "to end inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children".

"A breastfeeding mother must pump her milk as often as the baby usually eats", writes the United States Breastfeeding Committee, a nonprofit based in Chicago.

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"...[I] t turns out that global health resolution was just one of a few battlefronts in Trump's fight against policies that support breastfeeding, as the administration increasingly aligns itself with the US infant formula industry". "Baby Milk Action", which was favorably quoted in the article, and ran much of the anti-formula marketing part of the assembly, is known for its long-running boycott of Nestlé, which makes and markets baby formula to mothers.

He added that although the group didn't find negative effects on infant mortality on populations with clean water, that "doesn't mean there's no difference between breast milk and formula". Anderson is not alone in her sentiment that the USA government opposed the resolution to bolster the dairy-based infant formula industry. When that largely failed, the USA turned to threats-demanding that Ecuador's delegation refrain from introducing the bill as planned or be targeted with trade measures and cuts to military aid, the Times reports.

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatised; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies".

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency involved in modifying the resolution, told The Times the agency wasn't involved in the threatening of other countries.

An Ecuadorian official said that his government did not anticipate the harshness of America's response.

"What the World Health Organization is trying to do is help women achieve their own breastfeeding goals, and unfortunately those goals conflict with goals of the dairy industry", Stuebe said.

When contacted for a comment, the Department of Health and Human Services said the USA stance was in support of mothers who can not breast-feed for various reasons.

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