Is the Trump Administration at War with Breastfeeding?

At a recent gathering of the World Health Assembly, the forum through which the World Health Organization governs and makes health recommendations, US delegates caused a stir when they attempted to dissuade delegates from Ecuador from sponsoring a resolution to encourage breastfeeding.

According to a now-viral report from The New York Times, American delegates took issue with a number of clauses in the breastfeeding recommendations, and threatened to impose trade measures and withdraw military aid if Ecuador refused to eliminate certain passages from the resolution.

What Happened in Geneva?

In Geneva, delegates from Ecuador initially sponsored a resolution aiming to educate governments and new mothers about the health impacts of breastfeeding versus formula feeding. The recommendation called on governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding,” and also recommended limiting the promotion of “food products” — aka baby formula — to families with young children.

The United States is a nation where breastfeeding is currently on the rise. The baby formula industry’s profits have stalled in the US and other developed countries as more and more women have become aware of the health benefits of breast milk. Formula manufacturers’ largest profits now come from developing countries, a trend the World Health Assembly’s resolution hoped to combat.

Unfortunately, it seems that the US had formula manufacturers’ interests in mind during the Geneva talks. The US delegates took issue with the nature of the recommendation, and threatened Ecuador with trade measures and the withdrawal of aid if the resolution was not amended.

“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health,” Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended the World Health Assembly since the 1980s, told the Times.

However, the US ultimately was unsuccessful. Russia stepped forward to sponsor the measure, and the US didn’t fight back against it.

“We’re not trying to be a hero here,” said a Russian delegate, according to the Times, “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.”

Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

Although formula feeding is a great option for mothers who can’t breastfeed, current medical literature strongly supports breastfeeding for mothers and babies. Babies gain immunity and other protective nutrients from their mothers’ breastmilk.

Additionally, a study in The Lancet found that universal breastfeeding could prevent 800,000 child deaths per year.

The Trump Administration’s Response

For their part, the US 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. Vox points out that Donald Trump himself has been critical of breastfeeding mothers in the past, calling the act of breastfeeding “disgusting.” But in regard to this particular event, the President tweeted that “The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.”

While the US delegates’ motivations may be questionable, it is certain that their approach of threatening Ecuadorian delegates did not go over well on the world stage.

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37 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad A2 months ago

Thank you for bad news.

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S M
S M2 months ago

A bunch of men, led by the male Trump, saying what should happen re breast feeding is the height of arrogance and Patriarchy! Keep quiet men!

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Belinda Lang
Belinda Lang2 months ago

I have never heard of a mother being stigmatized because she didn't or couldn't breastfeed. I have always thought of it as a mother's choice. The behavior of the U. S. delegates was disgusting and I thank Russia for stepping in to help the countries being blackmailed by the delegation. Profits shouldn't be placed ahead of babies' best nourishment.

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Kate G
Kate G2 months ago

of course he is

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Adele E Zimmermann
Adele E Zimmermann2 months ago

Of course Donald Trump is against breastfeeding. Ugh! Breasts are for ogling and groping, not dispensing milk.

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Winn A
Winn Adams2 months ago

Yes, of course he is.

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Winn A
Winn Adams2 months ago

I just watched the protesters in England against tRUMP on CNN & MSNBC. Thousands are taking to the streets and time away from work to protest and I'm glad for it. tRUMP is an embarrassment to America and the World. He is a cancer on America and the World. When will this nightmare end? Vote BLUE in all elections and RESIST.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

No surprise if they want to protect the interests of formula makers. When the Pill was being developed for sale, the option of continuous use was equally good compared to the one with a break which gives a week of withdrawal bleeding once a month. The manufacturers of women's hygiene products said women would prefer the reassurance of bleeding once a month. I have never known any woman who wants to bleed if she does not have to. And think of the money that women could save if they did not need these products that foul up the environment.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

I am sure the admin doesn't mind women breastfeeding; just not in government offices

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

The breastfeeding potential to avert child deaths is related to dirty water. Not needed in a developed nation.

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