US threateningly tried to water down World Health Assembly measure supporting breastfeeding: Report

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A U.S. delegation threatened other nations in an attempt to water down a World Health Organization measure supporting breastfeeding, the New York Times reported. (Shutterstock)

The United States reportedly threatened to withdraw military aid and implement "punishing trade measures" in an attempt to weaken a World Health Assembly measure that encouraged breastfeeding.

The ultimately unsuccessful diplomatic spat unfolded earlier this year at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, according to the New York Times, which said it spoke to more than a dozen people with knowledge of the negotiations.

The United States delegation, in an apparent attempt to support the baby formula industry, took issue with, among other things, language encouraging member governments to "protect, promote and support breastfeeding," the paper reported.

After the delegation reportedly threatened measure sponsor Ecuador's delegation with the trade and military cuts, other nations also backed off in an apparent fear of retaliation. Russia ultimately stepped in to sponsor the measure, which passed largely unchanged.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told the newspaper that the first draft of the measure "placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children" and said the delegation opposed the original measure so that women could "have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so."
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healthu.s. & worldworld health organizationunited nationsbreast feedingbabypolitics