Experts explained that the U.S. resistance, although extreme, was nothing new. The United States previously demonstrated its allegiance to the formula industry by refusing to sign on to the World Health Organization’s Ban on the Marketing of Breast Milk Alternatives.
This U.S. stance, like its intimidation of Ecuador, flew in the face of near universally accepted medical and scientific research proving that breastfeeding saves lives. Perhaps even more surprisingly, both acts perpetuate an alarming racial divide in breastfeeding rates that leads to significant racial health disparities. American support of the formula industry comes at the cost of the health and lives of Black and brown babies, at home and abroad.
Both the resolution and the U.S. opposition to it stemmed from a decline in formula sales in the United States. The industry has sought to make up for its considerable domestic losses on the global market. The racial aspects of this local-global dynamic are hidden in plain sight.
Yesterday global women’s and children’s advocates sounded the alarm regarding alleged strong-arming by US delegates at this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva. The issue at hand was the rights of women regarding their choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding.
According to the New York Times, the US delegation sought to remove the language in a pro-breastfeeding resolution that compelled countries to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding” and to remove any restrictions on formula that many global health experts contend is harmful to infants and toddlers.
The US delegation threatened Ecuador (the sponsoring country for the resolution) with devasting trade measures and a reduction in military aid. Ecuador acquiesced as did many more African and Latin American countries until Russia stepped up to sponsor the resolution, a country the US could not threaten.
Lucy M. Sullivan, Executive Director of 1000 Days, tweeted an entire thread about what was happening at the World Health Assembly in May.
Thread. A battle over #breastfeeding has been brewing this week at @WHO headquarters at the #WHA71 where countries are negotiating a resolution on infant and young child feeding #IYCF. 1/
Mother’s milk has an enormous impact on child survival. While in Kenya it has improved over the past decade, the number of children who die before five years remains significant. The rate has decreased from 115 per 1000 live births in 2003 to 52 in 2014.
Neighbors Rwanda (2008), Tanzania (2012) and Uganda (2011) have recorded 50, 66 and 65 deaths per 1,000 live births for children below five years, respectively.
The main causes of childhood deaths are infections, preterm births and lack of sufficient oxygen, or asphyxia.
Breastfeeding infants on breast milk alone until they are six months old has been shown to reduce child mortality. When mothers can’t provide their own milk, the next best alternative is donor milk from other women. Access to “human milk banks” gives vulnerable infants, without access to their mother’s own milk, a healthy start to life.
The milk bank concept was initiated in Vienna in 1909 and was preceded by a century old practice of wet nursing – a mother breastfeeding another mother’s child.
Since then, over 500 human milk banks have been established in more than 37 countries globally in developed and developing countries. The pioneer countries include Brazil, South Africa, India, Canada, Japan and France.
I am always happy when World Breastfeeding Week rolls around each year. It gives me a chance to hear about the latest programs that are working around the world to increase breastfeeding rates. This year I learned about how World Vision is promoting breastfeeding in the Philippines through its 7-11 Core Intervention Framework which includes 7 interventions for women and 11 for children 0 – 24 months of age.
The way in which we discuss breastfeeding is different depending on the country and the context. While in the United States we talk a lot about infant feeding choices, in other countries, especially those that have thousands upon thousands of yearly infant deaths caused by diarrheal diseases, infections, and sub-optimal feeding, the context changes. In these cases, it is nearly always critical that mothers breastfeed their children up to two years of age.
In the Philippines, parents spend $240 million on breast milk substitutes and multinational formula feeding companies spend $100 million on marketing in the Philippines alone. Those numbers account for the fact that only 34% of infants under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed. While providing the best start in life for infants, many mothers are convinced that formula is better and easier for their lifestyles. But, often times women in low-and-middle-income countries like the Philippines do not always have access to clean water for formula. Dirty water can cause deadly diarrheal diseases that kill infants.
There’s a growing global recognition of proper infant nutrition in the child’s first 1000 days of life. This can be monitored through encouraging proper nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of life for optimal growth, health and survival.
Poor breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices are some of the common causes of malnutrition in the first two years of life. Breastfeeding confers both short-term and long-term benefits to the child like reducing the risk of infections and diseases like asthma, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Mothers who breastfeed also lower their risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, weak bones, obesity and heart diseases.
For countries to reap the benefits of breastfeeding they need to achieve a baby friendly status. Kenya began promoting the baby friendly hospital initiative approach in 2002. It ensures that health facilities where mothers give birth encourage immediate initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. Unfortunately, this programme was only accessible to women who delivered in the health facilities, leaving out those who give birth at home.
We conducted a two year study involving 800 pregnant women and their respective children in a rural area in Kenya. The study involved testing feasibility and potential effectiveness of the baby friendly community initiative (BFCI), whereby women in the intervention arm were given home-based counselling on optimal breastfeeding alongside health facility based counselling. These mother-child pairs were followed until the child was at least six months.
Breastfeeding has both short-term and long-term nutritional benefits for children. Nutrition is central to sustainable development. Good nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life is critical for child growth, well being and survival, and future productivity.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for children until they are six months old and continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary feedings until children are two, for optimal growth and development.
What Kenya did right
Kenya has seen a remarkable growth in exclusive breastfeeding for children under six months old. In 2003 only 13% of mothers were breastfeeding exclusively. This year, according to the National Demographic and Health Survey, 61% of mothers of children aged less than six months were breastfeeding exclusively.
This week Social Good Moms’ members will share their best breastfeeding advice. Today’s advice is from Chris. Follow her at chrisgharmon. Relax. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy at first (or maybe not even ever). Don’t let anyone else dictate it for you. Find a rhythm that works for you and your baby. And don’t let pressure from others (from any viewpoint) make you feel that you’re … Continue reading Moms’ Best Breastfeeding Advice from World Breastfeeding Week: Chris #WBW2015
When I visit low- and middle-income countries like Ethiopia, Zambia, the Philippines, and Tanzania, I am always heartened by the number of mothers I see breastfeeding their babies. Breastfeeding for so many of these mothers is the best and most affordable way for them to nourish their babies. While every mother does not breastfeed to be sure, the sheer number of mothers I see breastfeeding at local clinics, while walking with their baby strapped to them or taking a break on a city bench, gives me hope.
This week Social Good Moms’ members will share their best breastfeeding advice. Today’s advice is from Alicia Vanatta. Follow her at @blogger4fun2011. Don’t give up just because people may not want you to breastfeed. I formula fed my first 2 children, and am 11 weeks in nursing my son. It’s a tough first month but once you make it past 2 – 3 weeks of … Continue reading Moms’ Best Breastfeeding Advice for World Breastfeeding Week #WBW2015
Mother’s Loving Support is a non-profit volunteer organisation borne out of the founder’s desire to encourage and support women as they breast feed their babies while continuing to work outside the home.
In Zambia, breastfeeding a child is a socially accepted and encouraged step with the coming of a child, but many women in urban areas slowly transition to formula or other substitutes as the child grows or as they end their maternity leave to go back to work. Typically this happens at three months postpartum, though some women are able to extend their maternity leave in order to spend more time with their babies and nurse them for longer. When the time comes, many difficult decisions are made, one of them being how a mother can continue nursing while she goes to work?
Employment law does not have a specific allowance for nursing mothers, but at the discretion of the employers, mothers can take an hour each day to breastfeed their children, with many women able to go home during lunch hour to nurse. However, others face challenges in taking this time to nurse and this prevents them from providing breast milk for their children, thus transitioning them to substitutes earlier than is recommended. In addition, if women have not had an easy time breastfeeding, they are likely to stop at this stage.
Today marks the end of World Breastfeeding Week, but we still have more breastfeeding stories to share after today. We believe that moms help fellow moms through personal stories. That’s why we will continue to share the breastfeeding experiences of new and experienced moms alike. No one wants to feel alone at 2 AM in the morning when you’re feeding your baby and hoping you’re … Continue reading Sharing Moms’ Stories for #WorldBreastfeeding Week: Ebony #WBW2014
One of the biggest concerns of breastfeeding mothers is whether or not they are producing enough breast milk for their babies. It’s a valid concern. Having a low milk supply can become an overwhelming frustration for mothers. Some turn to formula and others like Hope turn to pumping. When Hope didn’t think she was producing enough breast milk she decided to pump instead so she … Continue reading Sharing Moms’ Stories for #WorldBreastfeeding Week: Hope #WBW2014
Long ago in Internet years (about seven years ago) I was a staunch breastfeeding advocate and researcher (still am!). Back then I wanted to get to the bottom of why nursing in public was such a big issue in the United States. So, I started digging in the photo archives of the Library of Congress for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours and discovered … Continue reading [Photos] B&W Historic Photos of Public #Breastfeeding in the US #WBW2014
If there is one thing that is certain about breastfeeding it’s this: breastfeeding for every mother is different. Some mothers experience breastfeeding without any issues and others have difficulty getting their babies to properly latch or have problems producing enough milk at first. That’s why we believe it is important to share the stories of fellow breastfeeding mothers. At 1 AM in the morning when … Continue reading Sharing Moms’ Stories for #WorldBreastfeeding Week: Jennifer #WBW2014