World Breastfeeding Week 2018: Is Breastfeeding Colliding with Big Business Interests in the United States?

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This week, World Breastfeeding Week, is dedicated to bringing awareness to the many benefits of breastfeeding for young children around the world. However, it also important to discuss the United States administration’s recent position on breastfeeding and the implications of this stance.

The United States has been a leader in child development research for many years. Around the world, millions of parents, teachers, caregivers, and medical professionals have looked to the U.S. for fundamental new understandings about human development and how children grow and learn.

U.S. educators and child development specialists have been proud of their expansive contributions to the pool of vital information about children’s development, especially to the body of research about the very sensitive and most critical earliest years of life, right from the start.

Since the earliest years of life are crucial to a child’s development, it is hard to understand why the U.S. administration decided not to support a resolution to encourage breastfeeding that was submitted during the United Nations World Health Assembly in Geneva this spring. The resolution was not controversial and was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered for the Assembly. 

One explanation being put forth is that this was an effort by the U.S. administration to show its support for big business, namely the makers of baby formula, since if breastfeeding was encouraged globally then the baby formula industry may experience a decrease in profit. However, it is hard to understand how encouraging breastfeeding, which is a scientifically proven best practice for child development, could be set aside for the purpose of supporting business. Is this really the reason for the administration’s action; if it is not, then what is?

The only other explanation that one could imagine would be that the U.S. no longer supports proven child development best practices. One can only hope that this is not the case. Since breastfeeding has been supported by many leading U.S. health and child development research institutions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), why would the U.S. administration act counter to this knowledge? There has been no explanation offered by the administration as to why it did not support the resolution.

Since no reason has been provided, we are left guessing whether or not business interests have won over proven best practices for child development, such as breastfeeding.