No, The Trump Administration Didn't Oppose Breastfeeding At WHO

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bloomberg via Getty Images

At the United Nations World Health Assembly this spring officials from the United States held up a resolution created to promote breastfeeding by attempting to remove specific language according to the New York Times.

We're told the USA threatened Ecuador with punishing trade measures and the removal of military aid. Proponents of the resolutions then struggled to find a new sponsor, as more than a dozen countries feared retaliation.

The US directed its ire at Ecuador when the South American nation agreed to introduce the resolution. The U.S. officials, according to the Times, first tried to remove language from the resolution that called on nations to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding". "The U.S. strongly supports breastfeeding but we don't believe women should be denied access to formula", Trump posted on Twitter Monday afternoon.

"The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children", a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told The Times in an email. With more first world mothers opting for Mother Nature's way, most of the industry's modest growth comes from developing countries. Critics of the breast milk substitute industry contend that those companies use aggressive and potentially illegal marketing tactics that encourage mothers to abandon breastfeeding in favor of commercial products. The U.S. provides about 15 percent of WHO's budget, at $845 million.

Ecuador's Health Minister Veronica Espinosa said her country had fought for passage of the resolution and "did not give in to private or commercial interests, or any other form of pressure".

"It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure - and the Americans did not threaten them", said The Times.

World Health Organization representatives when those initiatives were first introduced by a delegation from Ecuador, the New York Times reported on 8 July 2018. According to the Times, the saga shows how the Trump administration backs corporations over the public good and how the Trump administration is disrupting the rules-based order.

Moms Rising, a group trying to achieve economic security for mothers in the USA, called the American government's move "stunning and shameful", adding that "We must do everything we can to advocate for public policies that support and empower breastfeeding moms".

The World Health Assembly at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva.

The Times said more than a dozen participants from different countries at the assembly confirmed the "showdown over the issue". The final resolution preserved most of the original wording, though American negotiators did get language removed that called on the World Health Organization to provide technical support to member states seeking to halt "inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children". Among the myriad issues discussed at these annual meetings are policies and initiatives related to infant nutrition, breastfeeding, and breast milk substitutes, topics that gained prominence in the Assembly in the 1980s.

A 2016 study published by The Lancet says breastfeeding could save the lives of 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers each year.

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