National Consumers League

National Consumers League statement on U.S. opposition to breastfeeding at World Health Assembly

July 9, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer organization, is expressing its disappointment at reports of actions taken by the U.S. delegation to the United Nations’ World Health Assembly opposing a resolution meant to promote breastfeeding worldwide. According to reporting by the New York Times and others, the U.S. delegation demanded that language encouraging governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” be removed from a resolution – introduced by Ecuador -- that had been expected to pass without issue.

The resolution, based on established research about the significant health advantages of breastfeeding to both mother and baby,  encouraged countries to promote breastfeeding and “strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.”

“The United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations,” reported The Times.

The National Consumers League (NCL) has long advocated for the promotion of breastfeeding for health and economic reasons, as well as for policies that support women’s ability to breastfeed, including in public places.

A study from the journal Pediatrics found that breastfeeding could save 900 lives a year and billions of dollars if 90 percent of women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life. Research has determined that breastfeeding could prevent hundreds of deaths and many more illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, ear infections, stomach viruses, or even childhood leukemia.

The following statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director:

Breastfeeding has long been hailed as the best source of nourishment for infants, providing the perfect mix of nutrition in an easily digestible form and lowering the risk of certain syndromes, diseases, and allergies.

That the United States delegation to the World Health Assembly would be compromised by the interests of infant formula manufacturers is a disgrace – and going so far as to threaten Ecuador with retaliation for introducing this fundamental resolution is an utter embarrassment.

It is troubling that corporate or other interests might be undermining America’s policy stances on basic health issues such as this. We are disappointed at the U.S. delegation’s void in leadership but pleased that the World Health Organization’s long-standing policy of encouraging breastfeeding prevailed.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit http://www.nclnet.org.