SEVERE WX : Heat Advisory View Alerts

NYT: US opposes breastfeeding resolution

The United States threatened nations in an effort to blunt a World Health Assembly resolution supporting breastfeeding this spring, The New York Times has reported.

Posted: Jul 10, 2018 6:59 AM
Updated: Jul 10, 2018 7:06 AM

An international resolution promoting breastfeeding was at the center of negotiations between delegates from the United States and other countries during this year's meeting of the World Health Assembly (the decision-making body of the World Health Organization), held in the spring.

Some US delegates reportedly wanted to water down the resolution, while others wanted to maintain strong language, leading to a debate on the floor, seen in an online webcast.

In the end, "delegates at this year's World Health Assembly unanimously renewed their commitment to invest and scale up nutrition policies and programmes to improve infant and young child feeding. We are not in a position to comment on exchanges between different delegations," WHO spokesman Tarik Jašarević wrote in an email.

Despite the controversy, in the medical world, breastfeeding is not such a contentious topic.

"WHO recommends breastmilk as the best source of nourishment for infants and young children. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival," Jašarević said.

"If all infants under the age of six months were exclusively breastfed, we estimate that about 820,000 child lives would be saved every year," he said. "Today, however, globally, only 40% of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed."

The countries that breastfeed the most and least

Responding to the account of the WHO resolution, US Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement that the US "has a long history of supporting mothers and breastfeeding around the world and is the largest bilateral donor of such foreign assistance programs."

"The United States was fighting to protect women's abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies," she said. "Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies."

President Donald Trump tweeted similar sentiments on Monday, posting that the US "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."

The original WHO resolution called for increased commitment by member countries to specifically protect, promote and support breastfeeding practices for mothers who wish to breastfeed, said Aunchalee Palmquist, an assistant professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health and the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The resolution also outlined specific ways that may be achieved, she said, including supporting the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a toolkit that assists hospitals in giving mothers "the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or safely feed with formula," according to its website.

"A major risk of formula feeding in low-income settings is that the formula is available without the other safety precautions," Palmquist said.

"It is often sold over the counter -- or in emergencies distributed as blanket donations -- as if it's as safe as breastmilk, when that is not the case," she said. "Many parents and infant caregivers feed their infants formula without any understanding of how dangerous it can be for their infant or what practices need to be in place to make it safer."

Those risks include creating the formula precisely as instructed, storing it safely and cleaning and sanitizing bottles so the infant doesn't get sick.

A UNICEF report published in May found that more than one in five babies is never breastfed in high-income countries, whereas one in 25 babies is never breastfed in low- and middle-income countries.

Among the high-income countries, Ireland, France and the United States had the three lowest breastfeeding rates, according to that report.

In the US, 83% of babies start out being breastfed, but only 25% are exclusively breastfed six months later, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding rates are significantly lower for black infants.

In comparison, among the low- and middle-income nations, the UNICEF report showed that nearly nine in 10 babies were breastfed, even in the countries with the lowest breastfeeding rates for that group. The percentage of babies ever being breastfed was above 88% in all of those countries, reaching above 99% in Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The country-by-country differences in breastfeeding rates could be due to cultural norms, having the ability to breastfeed while in the workplace or having access to safe and affordable alternatives to breast milk, among other factors.

"There are major political, economic and social factors that shape breastfeeding patterns in global settings," Palmquist said.

For instance, "mothers who must return to work shortly postpartum face enormous challenges in establishing lactation and continuing to breastfeed as recommended," she said. "They may have to work away from their infants and rely on others to care and feed their infants. They may also not have the support of skilled breastfeeding counselors and other health care providers who can assist them with breastfeeding difficulties."

Breastfeeding can come with short- and long-term benefits for both mom and baby, especially in low-income settings, Palmquist said.

"In settings where there is high poverty and weak public health infrastructure -- for example that ensures clean water, sanitation, routine child immunizations -- exclusively breastfeeding in the first six months of life is not only a primary source of food security for infants, it gives them immunological protection against infections and malnutrition," Palmquist said.

"In addition to reducing risk for chronic diseases and sudden infant death syndrome, breastfeeding is associated with a reduction of ear infections, upper respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections when compared with formula feeding. This is because human milk contains immunological components that protect infants from infection, through passive immunity," she said.

"Breastfeeding also reduces the risk that mothers will become impoverished by their dependence on formula to feed their infants; formula is expensive and not always available to families in low-income settings," she said.

'Mothers require more than just encouragement to breastfeed'

In the US, the American Academy of Pediatrics policy on breastfeeding is one of its most accessed policies. It recommends to exclusively breastfeed in the first six months of an infant's life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age.

"Medical contraindications to breastfeeding are rare," the policy's abstract states.

In the United Kingdom last month, the Royal College of Midwives published a new position statement on infant feeding.

"Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life is the most appropriate method of infant feeding. Breastfeeding should continue alongside complementary foods for up to two years," the position statement recommends.

UNICEF and WHO also recommend exclusive breastfeeding from within an hour of birth until the baby is 6 months old. Thereafter, nutritious complementary foods should be added to a child's diet while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or beyond.

For mothers who are unable to breastfeed for medical reasons, such as having the human immunodeficiency virus or not producing enough milk, it is recommended to consult with a trained health care professional for support and guidance.

"Mothers require more than just encouragement to breastfeed," Palmquist said. "They need to have support at all levels of society, including multilevel support for policies and practices to protect, promote and support this basic human right."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 39133

Reported Deaths: 1514
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12597787
Ramsey4963229
Dakota242192
Stearns241419
Anoka2266109
Nobles16726
Olmsted114715
Washington113740
Mower9602
Rice8488
Scott7624
Clay59138
Kandiyohi5781
Blue Earth4942
Wright4835
Todd4012
Carver3951
Lyon3272
Sherburne3255
Freeborn2970
Watonwan2380
Steele2371
Benton2203
St. Louis19615
Nicollet17312
Martin1715
Cottonwood1360
Goodhue1318
Winona12915
Crow Wing10812
Le Sueur1081
Pine1070
Chisago1021
Otter Tail1001
McLeod920
Dodge880
Carlton870
Unassigned8537
Polk822
Chippewa791
Isanti750
Waseca710
Douglas650
Murray650
Itasca6412
Meeker611
Morrison611
Faribault600
Pipestone592
Becker570
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pennington520
Renville362
Beltrami340
Brown342
Mille Lacs342
Wabasha330
Rock310
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston270
Swift221
Wilkin213
Norman200
Redwood190
Koochiching181
Grant170
Roseau170
Cass162
Aitkin150
Big Stone150
Kanabec151
Wadena150
Marshall120
Pope120
Lincoln100
Mahnomen101
Clearwater90
Hubbard80
Lake60
Stevens50
Traverse50
Lac qui Parle40
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32064

Reported Deaths: 731
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6739181
Woodbury326044
Black Hawk232358
Buena Vista171911
Johnson13408
Linn130482
Dallas129129
Marshall106019
Scott84510
Story8063
Pottawattamie74512
Dubuque74222
Wapello70830
Crawford6783
Muscatine64944
Sioux4810
Tama46829
Wright3851
Louisa36313
Jasper32517
Plymouth3245
Warren2911
Dickinson2663
Webster2484
Washington2459
Cerro Gordo1901
Hamilton1891
Boone1501
Clay1370
Allamakee1334
Clarke1333
Mahaska11717
Shelby1170
Clinton1131
Poweshiek1078
Carroll991
Pocahontas981
Bremer957
Franklin950
Des Moines912
Emmet870
Henry863
Cedar851
Hardin810
Taylor800
Monona770
Cherokee761
Floyd732
Marion710
Benton681
Guthrie684
Jones640
Sac640
Jefferson620
Osceola620
Buchanan601
Butler592
Hancock551
Humboldt551
Calhoun542
Harrison540
Lee542
Iowa530
Delaware511
Monroe517
Fayette500
Madison482
Lyon450
Clayton443
Davis411
Mitchell410
Palo Alto410
Grundy400
Mills390
Winneshiek390
Kossuth360
Howard340
Jackson340
Union340
Lucas314
Chickasaw290
Greene290
Winnebago290
Cass240
Ida230
Appanoose213
Keokuk211
Van Buren210
Page200
Worth200
Adair160
Audubon161
Unassigned160
Ringgold150
Decatur120
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont80
Rochester
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 87°
Mason City
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 92°
Albert Lea
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 90°
Austin
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 88°
Charles City
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 91°
Some relief in sight, after more storms
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events