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


According to the Times report on Sunday based on interviews with dozens of meeting participants, USA negotiations in Geneva objected to the resolution encouraging breastfeeding around the world and allegedly resorted to intimidation tactics to bully other countries into dropping it.

Efforts to further promote breastfeeding initiatives in 2018 were met, reportedly, with unexpected hostility from U.S.

These days, the United States is on the outside looking in when it comes to global consensus on many things: Climate change, the Iran deal, and breastfeeding.

The narrative was set. President Donald Trump argued it was "fake news".

The administration told Ecuador that if it did not pull its resolution, it would respond by cutting military aid and adopting harsh, retaliatory trade measures. Just one portion, calling on the World Health Organization to provide support to member states seeking to halt "inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children", was removed. Ecuador had planned to introduce a resolution which encouraged breastfeeding - but they suddenly backed out, because the USA reportedly said it would impose damaging trade restrictions and cut military aid if it went through with the measure. Taking a break from being an all-purpose bogeyman, Russia, we're told, saved the day and the United States was thwarted. Representatives of some corporate interests spoke out against aspects of the resolution at a listening session hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services, said Sullivan.

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But the World Health Assembly wasn't trying to deny or even limit access to infant formula.

For a recent paper, University of California, Berkeley, economist and public-health expert Paul Gertler. and a team of colleagues looked at infant mortality rates in low- and middle-income countries, comparing regions that had access to infant formula to regions that didn't.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for at least six months, but also noted that those younger than that "get everything they need from breast milk or formula". The proposal was controversial even in the Obama administration.

The resolution was eventually passed, but only after the Russian government reintroduced the measure.

A mother bottle feeds her baby. "002.pdf" target="_blank">revisit the issue of limiting the marketing of non-breastmilk options for mothers, reopening some of the contentious debates from 2016. In fact, the WHO Code is primarily concerned with the misleading marketing of such products in ways that explicitly discourage breastfeeding as a choice, especially within poor communities, as The Guardian observed: "Formula promotion is a particular issue in poorer countries because there is a higher risk of pneumonia and diarrhoea for babies, and with a lack of access to healthcare mothers are less informed about the benefits of breastfeeding".

What WHO and UNICEF should do now, after decades of modestly successful efforts to curb the unsafe use of baby formula, is to push for a global treaty: a Framework Convention on Formula Control modeled on WHO's successful Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).