There may be nobody as vulnerable to manipulation as a mother worried about her child’s health. The question of whether we’re doing right by our kids cuts straight to the maternal heart. The problem is that in this age of marketing vs. activism, we’re overwhelmed and paralyzed by the debates about what’s best.
It’s not surprising, then, that there was an uproar when the New York Times reported on July 8 that the Trump Administration had tried to dilute a resolution at the World Health Assembly this spring that called on all nations to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding.” The effort failed, but the U.S. delegation was accused of favoring the interests of formula companies over the health of children when it objected to that seemingly mild language as well as restrictions on marketing breast-milk substitutes to mothers.
As we’ve seen in the debates over abortion or plastic surgery or pregnancy nutrition, everyone has an opinion about what women should and should not do with their bodies — even if they don’t inhabit a female body themselves. And that is especially true when there’s a $45 billion global business like infant formula at stake.
Standing in opposition to that revenue number are the health advocates who have fought for decades to increase breastfeeding everywhere and decrease misleading infant-formula marketing practices, particularly where lack of access to uncontaminated water can make using powdered formula life-threatening. Experts point out that the overwhelming evidence of the health benefits linked to nursing — a lower risk for asthma, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and ear and respiratory infections — extend to all countries.