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Canadian breastfeeding advocates alarmed by USA opposition to United Nations resolution

12 July 2018

The Ecuadorian delegation, for instance, was expected to introduce the resolution but was weaned off the idea after the United States threatened to impose harmful trade measures and withdraw military assistance-which the U.S. is providing in the northern part of the country to help address violence spilling over the border from Colombia.

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

According to the report, the delegation fought against elements in the resolution that would have demanded member states "protect, promote and support breast-feeding" and restrict potentially risky infant foods.

Russian Federation was not dissuaded and introduced it. Milk from a mother to a child is also nutritionally specific.

The Times reported that after American officials failed to get the language changed in the resolution threats were made.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which said it did not threaten Ecuador, defended its decision to push back against the resolution.

HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement responding to the account of the resolution that the USA "has a long history of supporting mothers and breastfeeding around the world and is the largest bilateral donor of such foreign assistance programs".

But research has long shown that breastfeeding is the best way to nourish an infant, boost their immune system, prevent them from being sick or becoming overweight or obese and forge bonding between mother and child. Breastfeeding rates vary by country, but two out of three infants worldwide are not breastfed for the recommended six months and this rate has not improved in several decades, according to a WHO, UNICEF and International Baby Food Action Network report from 2016. And while the United States lags behind many developed nations, most USA states have significantly improved breastfeeding rates over the past decade.

Oakley said, "The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding". "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". Since the 1980s, governments, non-governmental organizations, and corporations have been limited from marketing formula for infants six months of age and younger.

The U.S. delegation doesn't agree with a public health policy of keeping information away from women who are feeding their children.

There were some signs even before the meeting in Geneva that there might be some pushback against the original resolution.

Of course, dominating a multi-billion dollar industry generates large profits-and plenty of money to invest in lobbying. Perez-Escamilla is also a scientific adviser to the World Health Organization on the topic of breastfeeding.

In 1981-the height of a massive controversy over Nestlé's aggressive marketing of formula to mothers in poor countries-the "availability of formula" resulted in approximately 66,000 infant deaths in areas with bad water, they found.

Canadian breastfeeding advocates alarmed by USA opposition to United Nations resolution