A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly. Breast milk provides babies with essential nutrients, necessary hormones, and antibodies that help protect infants from infections.
Russian Federation eventually introduced the resolution.
The assault on the baby, the bathwater and everything else was so savage that the US Department of Health and Human Services, which had sought to edit down the resolution, clarified that it did not use threats.
For instance, "mothers who must return to work shortly postpartum face enormous challenges in establishing lactation and continuing to breastfeed as recommended", she said. Universal adoption of breastfeeding in low- and middle-income countries could prevent the death of an estimated 823,000 children under two years old, according to a study by the Australian National University.
"Formula is the same that you give a newborn infant as you're giving a one-year-old, and human milk is a handsome, amazing, diverse, biological substance that changes every minute of the day for the child", said Dr. Mitchell.
These reports shocked physicians and public health advocates in the United States and around the world and stood in stark contrast to decades of infant and maternal research and guidelines. Milk from a mother to a child is also nutritionally specific.
The American move was apparently an attempt to protect the interests of infant formula manufacturers. "002.pdf" target="_blank">revisit the issue of limiting the marketing of non-breastmilk options for mothers, reopening some of the contentious debates from 2016. That's great for mothers, and awful for manufacturers of baby formula.
The New York Times reported July 8 that during a World Health Organization meeting in May, American officials threatened Ecuador with sanctions if it would not withdraw its sponsorship for a resolution in support of breastfeeding. "It was supposed to go to the floor, and then Ecuador pulled it and it was very confusing", said Zehner, adding that other countries were approached about putting it forward but refused, apparently because they were scared.
Those risks include creating the formula precisely as instructed, storing it safely and cleaning and sanitizing bottles so the infant doesn't get sick.
Of course, dominating a multi-billion dollar industry generates large profits-and plenty of money to invest in lobbying.
Pensa Branco, who says she was part of a group that reviewed and provided feedback on the initial United Nations proposal, says there's nothing to stop Ottawa from bringing in its own version of the original resolution, which include greater limits to how breast milk substitutes are marketed.
Patti Randall - who, as policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, has attended meetings of the assembly - said the group was "astonished", "appalled" and "saddened" by the behavior of the US delegates.
"We all started talking about it at the conference", said Dr. Mitchell.