Trade Wars and Breastfeeding

This post is rather spontaneous so please forgive me if I offend your views in any way. I was listening to NPR’s 1A podcast earlier and the topic of the hour was breastfeeding. I expected to hear the usual information about how “breast is best” and how we need to increase support in terms of education and resources in the US for mothers who choose to nurse their infants. Imagine my shock when the discussion was instead focused on how US Diplomats’ upended a World Health Organization’s resolution to limit misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes around the world. 1A’s discussion was based on Andrew Jacobs’ recent report for the New York Times titled Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution by U.S. Stuns World Health OfficialsHere are some direct quotes that still has me fuming with rage:

“… Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes. Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.”

So how exactly did they do this you ask:

“American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the United States.”

I am speechless. Actually, clearly I am not since I am typing this right now. What I am is angry without the right words to articulate just why. I understand fully that there are so many sad things going on in the world right at this minute, that are larger in scale than this little issue. I have chosen to keep my opinions to myself on most those other topics but this one is too emotional to keep contained.

I am truly lucky to physically be able to nurse all three of my kids until they were at least one-year old. I didn’t do it to make a statement. I did it because that’s how nature intended things to be; because lucky for me it was easy and effortless; because it is free (till this day I couldn’t tell you how much formula costs even if my life depends on it).

Ajay, who is now one, is slowly learning that mom’s boob is not going to be available for too long. In fact, this is the saddest I have been when weaning one of my kids because honestly, who knows if I will have more kids. Sure, mother’s milk is good for the baby, but there is something in it for me too and soon that feeling of empowerment and nourishment is going to end.

[I’ll repeat this yet again – how lucky of me! I know too many friends who had a horrible time with nursing and in spite of their best efforts, had to stop breastfeeding. I also know lots of friends who right out chose to never nurse and only use formula. Whatever their reasons, they were educated and savvy women who were able to make the choice that was right for them based on their circumstances and NOT because some formula company influenced their views.]

By taking the side of formula manufacturers, I am ashamed that US is putting profits over what is the most natural thing in this whole world. On top of that, they are pretty much blackmailing other countries who are indeed interested in reducing misleading marketing of formula. Thankfully though, according to the report, someone else came to the rescue:

“In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.”

Now I am speechless for sure.

I urge you to read the full report.

I am that mom who has stared people back when they gave me a look for nursing in public. I am that mom who yelled at people who tried to throw blankets at me to “cover up” something that wasn’t even showing. I am that mom who refused to use the nasty public restroom because others might be uncomfortable to see a little baby eating. I am that mom who is sick of people who put money over all else.

Even if I worked for a formula manufacturer and was about to lose my million-dollar job because less formula was being sold, I wouldn’t do what those US officials did. Thank you for listening to me. Again, I am sorry if I have offended you.

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