The U.S. opposed a World Health Assembly resolution to encourage breastfeeding because it called for limits on the promotion of infant formula, not because of objections to breastfeeding, President Donald Trump tweeted Monday.
Recent media coverage has turned the World Health Assembly Resolution on Infant and Young Child Feeding into a political debate about breastfeeding vs formula feeding, rather than the public health issue at hand: access to proper information and nutrition education for parents of children up to three years of age. However, according to the Times, the US did successfully strike some language that would have provided technical support for nations seeking to stop "inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children". The American delegation was fighting to include the interests of formula manufacturers, even going so far as to threaten normal trade with countries like Ecuador.
The Russian delegation eventually stepped in to introduce the measure, with no push-back from the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies until they are six months old, and continuing partial breastfeeding for the first year. In addition, universal breastfeeding could save $300 billion in reduced health care costs and improved economic prospects for children.
In a statement sent to the NYT, the Department of Health and Human Services said the resolution "placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children".
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, the lead agency in negotiations on the resolution, defended the USA opposition to the measure, saying that it would impede women's access to vital baby formula when breastfeeding is not an option.
At the conference, Ecuador sponsored a proposal that recognized mother's milk as the healthiest option for nursing newborns.
The Times framed the USA opposition during the United Nations -affiliated meeting in alarming terms.
But the popularity of breastfeeding can cut into sales of infant formula manufacturers, and companies who produce formula have a long history of interfering in worldwide affairs to promote formula over breastfeeding at the expense of infant health. They reportedly told Ecuador, who planned to introduce the resolution, that if it didn't drop the proposal, the USA would punish the nation with trade measures.
For their part, the USA delegates have said that it wasn't corporations' best interests they had in mind, but that they were instead trying to fight against "stigmatizing" women who choose to formula feed. "[Pharmaceutical companies] make a lot more money if they can add nutrients and additives and health claims on a product, put it in a plastic-type container and sell it".
'These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so'.
Sterken says she was encouraged by how strongly many countries resisted the US bid, and she praised Canada for doing its part to champion breastfeeding initiatives. The Ecuadorian delegates acquiesced, and health advocates struggled to find another sponsor for the resolution.