Media Promote Myth Trump Favors Formula Makers over Breastfed Babies

Women --some of them breastfeeding-- carry out a 'mamaton' (from Spanish 'amamantar' ,breastfeed and 'marathon') outside the Legislative Assembly in San Jose on August 3, 2016 protesting against the recent dismissal of a secretary who was breastfeeding by a deputy of the Partido Accion Ciudadana (PAC) . / AFP / …
EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty

What started as a United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly resolution in support of breastfeeding transformed into media reports that the Trump administration rejected it to show favor to baby formula manufacturers.

The New York Times reported using anonymous sources that the U.S. had even threatened some countries that supported the resolution with punitive actions if they didn’t withdraw support.

The Times reported:

A resolution to encourage breastfeeding 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, part of the World Health Organization. (WHO)

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

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

“The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced,” the Times reported.

When President Donald Trump got word of the Times’ story he tweeted on Monday:

“The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breastfeeding must be called out. The U.S. strongly supports breastfeeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty,” Trump tweeted.

Forbes’ report took the Times story to another level, pitting the Trump administration against moms and babies in favor of the U.S. dairy industry.

When the U.S. pushed to weaken language supporting breastfeeding in a WHO resolution at the World Health Assembly recently, Trump’s administration prioritized the U.S. dairy industry and the $70 billion baby food industry over babies’ health, according to Alison Stuebe, MD, MSc, a maternal-fetal medicine physician and president-elect of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

“What the WHO is trying to do is help women achieve their own breastfeeding goals, and unfortunately those goals conflict with goals of the dairy industry,” Stuebe said.

“The resolution included guidance on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which outlines what kind of marketing is and is not acceptable from formula companies,” Forbes reported but did not include the code dates back to 1981.

On Monday, the Associated Press (AP) sought a response from United State Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

The U.S. opposed a World Health Assembly resolution to encourage breastfeeding because it called for limits on the promotion of infant formula, not because of objections to breastfeeding, President Donald Trump tweeted Monday.

Trump criticized The New York Times for reporting that U.S. officials sought to remove language that urged governments to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, along with language calling on policymakers to limit the promotion of food products, such as infant formula, that can be harmful to young children.

“Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said it’s ‘patently false’ to portray the U.S. position as ‘anti-breastfeeding.’

The Trump administration also denied that U.S. officials had threatened trade sanctions in the debate over the resolution, AP reported.

AP reported that the Times defended its reporting.

“Our report is accurate,” the Times responded and provided a link to its article.

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