The Trump administration has threatened so-called third world nations into backing off an international resolution supporting breastfeeding—universally touted by experts as the best nutritional option for infants—standing with formula companies who are losing market share in the U.S.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the administration sought to amend a pro-breastfeeding resolution at the U.N.-backed World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, which included language asking governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding.”
Not only did the proposition encourage citizens to breastfeed, but it warned parents to be aware of inaccurate claims by formula conglomerates, what the Times termed as, calling on policymakers to “restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children
And, in what could only be described as craven, the U.S. delegation reportedly bullied the country of Ecuador—the country set to introduce the measure—into withdrawing its backing, by threatening to exact punishing trade measures on the Central American nation, and even dangling the withdrawal of military help to a country ravaged by gang violence spilling over from neighboring Colombia.
The Times reports that some American delegates even suggested the United States would cut its contribution to the World Health Organization if their demands weren’t met; last year, the U.S. provided roughly 15 percent of W.H.O.’s budget, or $845 million.
Predictably, Ecuador quickly withdrew its support. At least a dozen countries other countries joined them—some of the poorest nations in Africa and Latin America—citing fears of retaliation from the U.S., even though its citizens are the least able to afford baby formula.
Eventually, the resolution passed, but only after the Russian government reintroduced it using a modified text, and according to the Times, “the Americans did not threaten them.” (surprise, surprise).
The crux of the issue as this writer sees it, is that the infant formula business is a $70 billion industry, dominated by a handful of American and European companies, which, according to the Times, have seen their sales flatten in wealthy (read so-called “first world”) nations in recent years; as such, most of their growth projections come from developing countries.
Coincidentally, the stance that the Trump administration took aligns right with formula companies, some of whom have generously donated to the president.
Many breastfeeding organizations were outraged, coming out with forceful language against the United States.
“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened. 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,” said Patti Rundall of Baby Milk Action to the Times.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the president say they just want to give women the “option” of using formula.
“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” said an H.H.S. spokesman, who remained anonymous, in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed 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.”
The president himself weighed in on the issue on Monday, but we know what time it is.
As always with this administration, follow the money.
For Trump, it seems, breast is not best, unless it’s attached to a porn star who is not his wife.