The Breast Milk Factor: U.S. against the world?

Posted by Tom Camfield

“Global health experts say breast milk is especially important for babies in poor countries, where unsafe water supplies can make powdered infant formula dangerous.”—The New York Times

Real News continues to show through the Trump propagandistic fakery. Now Donald (via his cadre) has tried to assume authority related to a mother’s choice of breast feeding her child, bullying blatantly in the process. Give this waste of breathable air a world stage and there’s no extreme to which his ego will not take him.

A 2016 study found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year around the globe and yield $300 billion in savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for those reared on breast milk. Four decades of research have established the importance of breast milk, which provides essential nutrients, hormones and antibodies to protect newborns against infectious diseases. Commercially-formulated baby food, meanwhile, is a $70-billion industry dominated by a handful of U. S. and European companies.

Donald’s old favorite, The New York Times, reports on a resolution planned for presentation recently, attended by hundreds of world-wide delegates of the World Health Organization. “Based on decades of research, the resolution says mother’s milk is healthiest for children, and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast-milk substitutes.”

But U. S. delegates, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, jumped in immediately and attempted to water down the resolution by removing language calling for governments to “protect, promote and support breast feeding” and a passage that called for policy-makers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say have deleterious effects on young children.

That didn’t work. So Ecuador, scheduled to present the resolution, was bluntly threatened with punishing trade measures and withdrawal of U. S. military support in an area wracked by violence near the Columbian border.  Ecuador bowed out, and some dozen other intimidated countries (poor African  and Central American nations) also declined to carry forth the breast-feeding standard. 

A British delegate to the sessions summed it up: “What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U. S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn more than 40 years’ consensus on the best way to protect infant and young-child health.”

RUSSIA SAVED THE DAY—But the American efforts mostly failed. Russia stepped in to introduce the measure and drew no threats from the U.S. A Russian spokesman said: “It is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important to the rest of the world.”

The Times story also noted: “During the deliberations, some American delegates even suggested the United States might cut its contributions to the WHO, several negotiators said. Washington is the single largest contributor to the health organization, providing $845 million, or roughly 15 percent of its budget, last year.”  The U. S. did manage to get removed from the resolution language calling on WHO to provide technical support to member states seeking to halt “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.” So false advertising (fake news), will draw a free pass courtesy of the Trump administration.

This ugly story epitomizes the bullying, money-driven agenda of Donald Trump. He is not a team player. He’s out for glorification of his personal ego, pitted and moldy as it may be. What he might refer to as his “team” in extreme circumstances is merely a retinue of scapegoats at the ready when thing go awry. His various moves of late illustrate, for instance, his desire to weaken and if not destroy, at least emasculate the United Nations.

We all know how he feels about “sh*thole countries” not up to his personal standard—generally countries with non-white populations and/or with faltering economies. Many of the countries among the 193 are struggling with hope as UN members. Under Donald, the U. S. has withdrawn from the UN’s Human Rights Council, cancelled most of its foreign aid to Palestinian refugees, etc. 

There also is Donald’s ongoing battle against scientific knowledge and intelligence, even against public education. His support base is heavy on the ill-informed and unconcerned. HIs most blatant move in this regard was U. S. withdrawal from the multi-national Paris Accords for dealing with Global Warming and Climate Change—which he chooses to  deny in favor of polluting big business, particularly fossil-fuel consuming industries. Science is at the heart of the current World Health Organization’s current breast-feeding resolution.

Donald is in no way the “genius” he has professed himself to be in his preemptive strike against true intelligence. He is more like the one-eyed man who is king in the land of the blind. And the second level of the problem there is the other old saying that “none is so blind as he who will not see.” So where does that leave us? With someone with limited vision leading a multitude                                                    unable or unwilling to see beyond their noses.

There are, of course, women unable to properly nourish a child with breast milk alone, and others who choose to wean a child as quickly as possible, etc. This resolution does not criticize that. It emphasizes the advantages of breast-feeding and targets the possible dangers of false claims of equivalency by manufacturers of commercially-produced formulas. And also the danger of such things as dry formula mixed with unsafe water.

Donald’s July 9 tweet said: “The failing NY Times fake news story about breast feeding must be called out. The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.” 

Breast-feeding experts also point out that their basic argument is “Breast is best.” Recent studies have shown, for instance, that mothers who breast-feed are at lower risk for developing aggressive hormone receptor negative breast cancers and that those who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are less likely to go on to develop diabetes later in life if they breast-feed.

And here’s an article dealing with this same problem 44 years ago! “The 1974 article titled The Baby Killer blew the lid off the Nestle bottle formula scandal. (1) Companies like Nestle used women in nurses uniforms to sell their baby formula. They provided free samples to mothers who would use the formula. These women would then find their breasts had stopped giving milk after a month of using the infant formula. Now they were hooked and needed to pay for the formula yet the family income in many cases was only $7 a week. What unfolded was a tragedy: from mixing the baby water with unsafe water sources to not being able to afford the expensive baby formula and diluting it to make it last longer. The result was deaths of babies in the millions, malnourished babies with stunted growth condemned to a lifetime of physical and mental disability.” See for follow-up:  https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/07/09/the-sordid-history-of-infant-formula-and-trumps-attempt-to-bully-blackmail-threaten-thirrd-world-countries/

This entire matter, of course, leans toward both women’s choice and the non-regulation of industry. Donald has always seemed to look upon women as some sort of male benefit—and to act accordingly both as an individual and as someone with political power. And he is ever a champion of unfettered big business—such as Abbott Laboratories in Chicago, one of the biggest players in the baby food market.

Women’s health (and for that matter, children’s) has never been something of prime importance to Donald, and in this case his thinking doesn’t seem to go beyond a big-business advertising handout. For a follow-up on the Times’ original UN resolution, see; https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/09/well/breastfeeding-trump-resolution.html

Even as we speak, he and his GOP Senate are rushing to get a new Supreme Court justice confirmed into office before the mid-term elections, one opposed to such things as a women’s personal health and reproductive rights. Someone who might take the court far enough right that it will return to its own landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision—which ruled that a state law that banned abortions (except to save the life of the mother) was unconstitutional. Donald also has made it a priority to repeal the Affordable Care Act which has made it possible for millions of people to get health insurance that includes coverage for birth control at no additional cost and prenatal care. And he would have preferred to shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood—which provides low-cost family-planning services, cancer screenings, and other health care to millions of people every year.

Afterword—More about Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Donald Trump’s nominee to the U. S. Supreme Court wrote in the 2009 Minnesota Law Review: “I believe that the president should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office.”  To me, that sounds like saying the president is above the law.

Kavanaugh wrote that presidents should not have to face criminal investigations, including indictments, or lawsuits while they are in office. He said Congress should pass a law temporarily exempting presidents from such distractions in office. As things stand, it is within the realm of possibility that Kavaugh will be confirmed to the same Supreme Court that might be asked to rule on Trump’s being subpoenaed in connection with the investigation into possible Russian involvement in his election. 

What a handy coincidence for Donald. 

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