An exclusive report reveals a controversial discussion among diplomats during a World Health Organization assembly. The U.S. delegates reportedly tried to drop a decree that encourages breastfeeding.
The dialogue was supposed to advance a WHO resolution, which aims for all countries to restrict erroneous or misleading marketing campaigns that promote formula milk or other alternative baby food. The delegates from the United States reportedly tried to overturn the resolution in support of formula milk manufacturers.
Specifically, the U.S. delegates wanted to omit a particular language in the resolution that asks for countries to "protect, promote, and support breastfeeding."
'Blackmail' Used To Push Agenda Against Breastfeeding
Several diplomats and other government representatives, who refused to be identified, said the American delegates resorted to threats when the majority of the officials disagreed about the proposed omission.
In one threat, the delegates said if Ecuador supports the resolution, the United States will impose trade sanctions and will withdraw military aid from the country. Similar threats were given to other countries that are dependent on the United States. Some of these nations were in Africa and Latin America.
At one point, the U.S. delegates reportedly threatened of cutting its financial contribution to WHO if the resolution is to be passed.
"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, policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action.
Russia was the only country who refused to be threatened. The country's delegates gave its word that it will push the breastfeeding resolution in their country.
Mothers Should Have A Choice
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services denied the allegations about the U.S. delegates resorting to blackmail. The representative explained the delegates objected to WHO's breastfeeding resolution because it puts unnecessary pressure to mothers who are unable to produce breast milk.
"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 spokesman said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months. Breastfeeding should be continued even if infants started eating solid foods. WHO recommends breastfeeding along with solid foods up to two years or beyond.
WHO said if mothers worldwide will commit to breastfeeding, there are about 820,000 children who would be saved yearly. Breastfeeding provides babies with antibodies necessary to protect them from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the leading causes of child deaths worldwide.
Grown-ups who used to be breastfed are less likely to become overweight or obese. They are also at lower risk of having type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers as it reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression.