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Nurses: Breastfeeding is Gold Standard of Nutrition

August is National Breastfeeding Month, and has been since a 2011 decision by the United States Breastfeeding Committee. (Jordan Whitt/StockSnap)
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and has been since a 2011 decision by the United States Breastfeeding Committee. (Jordan Whitt/StockSnap)
August 1, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. – The Trump administration caused a recent uproar when it tried to shut down a global resolution to encourage breastfeeding. However, health advocates say they'll be setting the record straight this week, during World Breastfeeding Week.

The resolution urged governments to protect and promote breastfeeding, but the U.S. delegation to the World Health Organization saw it as restricting the use of formula and threatened trade sanctions. However, registered nurse Catherine Kennedy said the reaction was misinformed.

"Why would we want mothers to purchase powdered formula and then use contaminated water to feed their infant when they could breastfeed their children," she asked, "even if a mother is malnourished?"

While it's sometimes a good alternative, Kennedy said, formula is expensive and has contributed to malnutrition for those who can't afford it and are unable to breastfeed.

For decades, health advocates have fought what they see as predatory marketing of infant formula, especially in developing nations. National Nurses United, a U.S. nurses union, has pointed to research showing the six big manufacturers of baby formula have marketed aggressively, with little scientific proof of their products' benefits.

When President Donald Trump weighed in on the World Health Organization controversy, tweeting that women shouldn't be denied access to formula because of malnutrition or poverty, Kennedy said she felt it showed a lack of understanding of the issue.

"We really think that he doesn't have any knowledge of what or why we as registered nurses believe breastfeeding is a gold standard and really across the globe," she said.

August also is National Breastfeeding Month, a chance to focus on the benefits of breastfeeding, both for babies and their moms. The United States Breastfeeding Committee hosts a series of events each week during National Breastfeeding Month, encouraging organizations across the country to participate.

The study on formula manufacturers is online at changingmarkets.org and a list of USBC events is at usbreastfeeding.org.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA