“Breastmilk Is Best” Resolution At World Health Assembly Faces U.S. Setback

by Kim Boateng Posted on July 9th, 2018

Geneva, Switzerland: The United States reportedly threatened nations supporting the “Breastmilk Is Best” resolution, at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, until Russia stepped in.

The U.S. threatened Ecuador with trade sanctions and military aid withdrawal for introducing the “Breastmilk Is Best” UN resolution encouraging breastfeeding and limiting misleading information by infant formula companies. It said breastmilk is healthiest for children and that countries should prevent false or misleading marketing of substitutes.

But U.S. officials tried to remove language from the resolution that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

Other countries appeared hesitant to back the UN resolution after seeing the U.S. threaten Ecuador.

Delegates from other nations were reportedly “stunned” to find Trump officials using trade threats to oppose a breastfeeding resolution.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the “Breastmilk Is Best” resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the “Breastmilk Is Best” resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.

After American officials pressured Ecuador, it was Russia that introduced a resolution in support of breast-feeding. A Russian delegate said the decision to introduce the breast-feeding resolution was a matter of principle.

“We’re not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world,” said the delegate, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He said the United States did not directly pressure Moscow to back away from the measure. Nevertheless, the American delegation sought to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period.

In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful, and it was approved. However, the U.S. was successful in removing language that said the World Health Organization would support countries trying to stop “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”22

Under the terms of the original “Breastmilk Is Best” WHO text, countries would have encouraged their citizens to breastfeed on grounds that research overwhelmingly shows its health benefits, while warning parents to be alert to inaccurate marketing by formula milk firms.

During the deliberations, some American delegates even suggested the United States might cut its contribution the W.H.O., several negotiators said. Washington is the single largest contributor to the health organization, providing $845 million, or roughly 15 percent of its budget, last year.

The United States also insisted that the words “evidence-based” accompany references to long-established initiatives that promote breast-feeding, which critics described as a ploy that could be used to undermine programs that provide parents with feeding advice and support.

A 2016 study in The Lancet found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield $300 billion in savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for those reared on breast milk.

The World Health Organization, WHO, recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and a spokesperson for the organization, Tarik Jašarević, says that globally, only about 40% of babies under 6 months old are exclusively breastfed. “If all infants under the age of 6 months were exclusively breastfed, we estimate that about 820,000 child lives would be saved every year,” Jašarević said.

“Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.

Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” WHO says.

Ironically, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, HHS , strongly recommends and promotes  breastfeeding.

“When you breastfeed, you give your baby a healthy start that lasts a lifetime. Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. Breastfeeding saves lives, money, and time..Breastfeeding helps a mother’s health and healing following childbirth. Breastfeeding leads to a lower risk of these health problems in mothers:Type 2 diabetes Certain types of breast cancer,Ovarian cancer” HHS says its website.

The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk help protect babies from illness. This protection is unique and changes every day to meet your baby’s growing needs.

According to the HHS, “the U.S. shares a common objective with other countries to promote breastfeeding as well as adequate and timely complementary feeding. We also believe in ensuring breast-milk substitutes are properly used, when necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.”

Health benefits of breastfeeding for baby – HHS

Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of:

  • Asthma
  • Leukemia (during childhood)
  • Obesity (during childhood)
  • Ear infections
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Lower respiratory infections
  • Necrotizing (NEK-roh-TEYE-zing) enterocolitis (en-TUR-oh-coh-LYT-iss), a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in premature babies, or babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Type 2 diabetes

“Breastfeeding is an Investment in Health, Not Just a Lifestyle Decision” – CDC

“Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and mothers. It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby. We must do more to create supportive and safe environments for mothers who choose to breastfeed.” said Dr. Ruth Petersen, Director of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

Only 1 in 4 infants is exclusively breastfed as recommended by the time they are 6 months old. Low rates of breastfeeding add more than $3 billion a year to medical costs for the mother and child in the United States according to the CDC.

Infants who are breastfed have reduced risks of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) while breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and breast cancer, CDC says.

‘”The percentage of babies who start out breastfeeding increased from 73% in 2004 to 83% in 2014. The percentage of births in hospitals with recommended maternity care practices that support breastfeeding increased from 1.8% in 2007 to 22.2% in 2017.” CDC says.

“Given the importance of breastfeeding on the health of mothers and children, it is critical that we take action to support breastfeeding. Only through the support of family, communities, clinicians, healthcare systems, and employers will we be able to make breastfeeding the easy choice.” Dr. Jerome M. Adams, U.S. Surgeon General concludes.

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Kim Boateng

Kim Boateng

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