All families deserve public health policies designed to improve their health and well-being that are free from corporate interests. This is why the International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) calls upon governments to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. This includes holding businesses accountable for misleading marketing practices that unfairly target vulnerable women and children and directly impact breastfeeding.
This statement is in response to events reported by the New York Times. The article, “Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution by U.S. Stuns World Health Officials” reported on U.S.-delegation opposition to a resolution that aimed to call upon member states to strengthen promotion, protection and support for breastfeeding.
The resolution was to be introduced by Ecuador and “expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who had gathered . . . ” According to the article, Ecuador unexpectedly withdrew the resolution in response to threats made by delegates representing the United States. “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.”
Ultimately, a weaker resolution was adopted after being introduced by Russia. These actions took place at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May 2018.
The proposed resolution included a number of key protections for breastfeeding families, including strengthening efforts to reduce predatory marketing of breastmilk substitutes and providing additional supports for families in emergencies. To be clear, it did not deny families access to breast milk substitutes.
As an organization, ILCA envisions “world health transformed by skilled lactation care;” a world in which human beings have every opportunity to thrive through breastfeeding. As such, ILCA stands in support of The Code and subsequent resolutions. ILCA also stands in unwavering support of families everywhere, to make decisions that are best for their families. When breast milk substitutes are desired or required, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants® (IBCLCs®) and other skilled lactation professionals are qualified to assist families in the safe preparation, storage and feeding according to WHO guidelines. For parents choosing to breastfeed, this means navigating a host of unique challenges to the breastfeeding family. Challenges may be clinical but also social. Social policies such as adequate maternity leave and the right to breastfeed or express milk in the workplace work in favor of breastfeeding continuation whereas the absence of supportive and protective policies work against breastfeeding continuation.
The NYT article sheds light on how corporate interest interferes with public health policy designed to improve health and well-being. The article also highlights the role that governments have to promote, protect and support breastfeeding rather than side with businesses to support corporate gains. ILCA strongly supports systems and structures that shift the responsibility for breastfeeding success away from parents and toward social policies that make breastfeeding easier, not more difficult.
As frontline health professionals, IBCLCs and other lactation caregivers around the globe know first-hand the challenges that families face in providing their children with the best nutritional start to life. Therefore, ILCA calls upon governments to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
ILCA has for many years provided representation at key meetings like the WHA, and will continue to do so. ILCA stands with other global allies and urges its members and partners to continue to advocate for policies that strengthen the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding at the government level. ILCA urges skilled lactation professionals all over the world to continue to provide individualized specialized clinical care to families while advocating at the local/regional/country level for policies that support the families in our care.
On behalf of the Board of Directors,
Michele Griswold, PhD, MPH, RN, IBCLC
I am proud of my professional association for its clear stance condemning recent US pressure at the WHA to water down the Code in order to facilitate the ever-increasing global marketing and sale of breastmilk substitutes. It is to be hoped, however, that in our efforts to appear reasonable in the face of growing condemnation of breastfeeding advocacy, we not fall into the trap of acknowledging that infant feeding choice is to be supported anywhere as if the health outcomes of that choice do not matter. For those of us who know the difference, anything less than a clear recommendation to breastfeed, and action to make it possible, is unethical.
Thank you for always taking the stance to support moms and babies while advocating for breastfeeding regardless of political affiliations. It is vital that as breastfeeding advocates we keep this focus.