There was a time in the United States when breast-feeding was seen as old-fashioned, and "modern" women opted to use infant formula to feed their newborns. It signaled affluence if you were able to afford formula. Over time, however, an overwhelming preponderance of medical research indicated that the best option for infant nutrition was mother's milk, and that it should be the sole source of nutrition for newborns for their first six months and supplemented after that with solid food. In addition to the tremendous benefits of breast-feeding for newborn infants, the research shows that the mother's long-term health also is improved when she chooses to breast-feed.
As American women began to return to breast-feeding, infant formula manufacturers turned to overseas markets for continued growth, advertising their products as the choice for "modern" women. Unfortunately, in many of these countries clean water was not available for the preparation of the formula, and many women were not able to read the instructions. As a result, babies suffered from contaminated formula or formula that was too weak or too strong, leading to serious health issues and often death.
The tragic health consequences for newborns in the developing world became broadly known, and a boycott of one of the largest producers of infant formula began in 1977 and lasted nearly 20 years. In 1992, the World Health Organization and UNICEF generated guidelines to encourage breast-feeding globally and have updated their guidance regularly as new data emerged.
With this as background, it is disquieting, but perhaps not surprising, that in 2018 the U.S. government would decline to support a resolution to encourage breast-feeding in developed and developing countries where mothers can provide this healthiest form of nutrition. This is a startling example of the Trump administration's disdain for women and children in the U.S. and abroad.
Ensuring access to prenatal care and support for all new mothers who want to breast-feed are two simple steps that can significantly improve the health of newborns and their mothers. Beyond being the right thing to do, healthier mothers and healthier babies will provide broad economic benefits to our communities.
We cannot stand by as the administration continues to promulgate policy that sacrifices the health of women and children by making uninformed and dangerous choices.