Because Of A Pro-Breastfeeding Resolution, The US Threatened Ecuador With Withdrawal Of Military Aid & Trade Regulations

The United States stopped a resolution that encourages women to breastfeed their children at the World Health Assembly by threatening to withdrawal military aid and impose new trade regulations. The New York Times reports that Ecuador initially introduced the resolution. 

The resolution is meant to recognized the science that recognizes breastfeeding is the better option in areas of health and economics when possible. In an article published in 2016 edition of The Lancet, they stated that breastfeeding could save 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers. It could also save $300 billion worldwide. The US decided to side with the manufacturers of baby formula interests, at the possible expense of children and mothers' health, according to the Times.

To be clear: The resolution does recognize that breastfeeding isn’t always an option, especially in cases where the mother has HIV or cannot produce enough milk — because it is very much not cool to treat breastfeeding as the only ethical, health-minded baby-feeding option. 

There has been tons of research establishing that breastfeeding provides infants with crucial nutrients that manufactured baby formula doesn't provide. According to WebMD, breastfeeding has numerous benefits such as lowering an infant’s risk for having asthma or allergies. That is why American officials shocked many international delegates at the World Health Assembly in May opposed a widely popular pro-breastfeeding resolution, according to the Times.

The US picked the side of baby formula manufacturers, which is a $70 billion industry. They then threatened Ecuador unless they removed key lines from the proposal. According to the Times, they pushed to remove the sections asking governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding”, and to limit the promotion of replacement food products. Ecuador unable to handle such restrictions withdrew proposal, the Times reports. 

Dozens of other countries refused to introduce the resolution again in fear of any US retaliation — until Russia stepped in to reintroduce the breastfeeding proposal. According to the Times, Russia did not received any threats from the United States. 

“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 an anonymous Russian delegate to the New York Times.

The Department of Health and Human Services explained the decision to the Times in an email saying, “The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children. We recognize not all women are able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. 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.”

According to the Times, the only section the US was able to take out of the resolution was the part giving the Whole Health Organization license to offer technical support when countries wanted to stop “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children”.