US opposition to UN breastfeeding resolution defies evidence and public health practice

Statement from Georges Benjamin, MD, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

Washington, D.C., July 9, 2018 – “We are stunned by reports of U.S. opposition to a resolution at the World Health Assembly this spring aimed at promoting breastfeeding. According to news stories, U.S. officials attempted to block a resolution encouraging breastfeeding and warning against misleading marketing by infant formula manufacturers.

“Fortunately, the resolution was adopted with few changes, but it is unconscionable for the U.S. or other government to oppose efforts that promote breastfeeding. The consequences of low rates of breastfeeding are even greater for the health of children in resource-poor countries.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most cost-effective interventions for improving maternal and child health. Breastfeeding provides the best source of infant nutrition and immunologic protection. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight and obese, and have fewer infections and improved survival during their first year of life. Breastfed infants often need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations. In addition maternal bonding is increased, a benefit to both mother and child.

“The scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports breastfeeding and its many health benefits for both child and mother. The American Public Health Association has long supported exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding through at least the first year of life. APHA also strongly supports policies that encourage breastfeeding at home, maternity hospitals and birth centers and the workplace, and help identify women most in need of support of breastfeeding practices.

“In cases where mothers are unable to breastfeed, there are evidence-based solutions to protect the mom and ensure the baby thrives. The solution to malnutrition and poverty is not infant formula, but improved economic development and access to domestic and international nutrition and food programs.”

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APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that influences federal policy, has a nearly 150-year perspective and brings together members from all fields of public health. Learn more at www.apha.org.

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