What Does Trump Have Against Breastfeeding? - Cortney O'Brien

Ric Francis via ZUMA

"So it was a shock to the hundreds of World Health Organization delegates to gathered this spring in Geneva when the USA delegation attempted to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding", and another reference to restrict the promotion of feed products that many experts believe are bad for young children".

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". Ecuador had planned to introduce a resolution which encouraged breastfeeding - but they suddenly backed out, because the U.S. reportedly said it would impose damaging trade restrictions and cut military aid if it went through with the measure.

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

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". Mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed; however - if breast milk is not available or not chosen - parents should have access to information from trusted sources. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

In opposing the resolution, the US was said to align with the corporate interests of formula manufacturers.

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We're told the USA threatened Ecuador with punishing trade measures and the removal of military aid. Ecuador quickly dropped its support for the resolution. It added that "not all women are able to breastfeed", and they "should have the choice and access to alternatives". These are situations during which it has been common to solicit formula donations for the affected countries, says Maaike Arts, an early childhood nutrition specialist with UNICEF.

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.

Although the US and many other countries promote a "breast is best" policy, many mothers are unable to breastfeed for a variety of reasons like medical challenges, insufficient maternity leave, or inability to afford time away from work often required for exclusive breastfeeding. The position of the United States is aligned with infant formula manufacturers (the USA dominates the $70 billion industry, which has been on the downturn in wealthier nations in the last few years as more women are breastfeeding), and, unsurprisingly, was a complete about-turn from the Obama administration. Their sales have increased, however, in developing countries.

Health advocates had trouble finding another sponsor who did not fear US "retaliation". 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.

They also sought to hinder World Health Organization efforts to provide lifesaving medications to undeveloped countries.

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