La Leche League International (LLLI) stands firm in our commitment to support breastfeeding as the optimal way of feeding a baby. We also remain fully committed to upholding the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and all relevant World Health Assembly resolutions that promote, protect, and support breastfeeding around the world.
The United States Office on Women’s Health recognizes the many ways in which breastfeeding supports the health and development of the baby. The World Health Organization notes that breastfeeding supports an infant’s sensory and cognitive development, reduces infant mortality, helps them recover from illness more quickly, and reduces their risk of childhood cancers. Furthermore, breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancers in breastfeeding mothers. In a Call to Action, the U.S. Surgeon General has strongly supported breastfeeding and advocated reducing the barriers that may impede families from being able to provide human milk for their babies.
Many people around the world have read of the United States’ opposition to a World Health Assembly resolution meant to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding, as published in The New York Times here. This action is deeply disappointing.
Representatives from major breastfeeding-related organizations, including LLLI, put many hours of work into the language proposed in the revisions to the 2018 Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative implementation guidance. In addition, an international team of breastfeeding advocates were present at the World Health Assembly. They spent many hours in meetings helping draft the original resolution; briefing many nations’ delegates about the details of the proposed resolution and why protecting breastfeeding (including the Code) is critically important; and continuing their efforts when the attack on the conflict-of-interest provisions was unfolding.
The good news is that the text about World Breastfeeding Week stayed in unchanged. The part of the text related to the call on the Director General to develop further material for BFHI was finally retained unchanged. The parts on the Code were seriously cut, as were other parts on conflicts of interest and ending inappropriate marketing to children.
The final resolution as adopted can be found here.
The importance of breastfeeding for babies, mothers, families, and society is supported by a wealth of evidence. Breastfeeding is free, and even malnourished or impoverished mothers are able to produce abundant, life-protecting milk that will support their baby’s health and development as well as their own health and well-being. While we do not mix causes, Leaders in the USA may wish to engage as private citizens. The United States Lactation Consultant Association has provided contact information and suggestions for writing letters to US legislators here.
La Leche League International, as the world’s leading breastfeeding support organization, is fully committed to promoting, protecting, and supporting breastfeeding for all families. We encourage all governments, including the US government, to recognize the importance of breastfeeding as a critical public health issue and to take the appropriate measures advocated by the World Health Organization to protect breastfeeding.
Cecily Harkins, Chair
On behalf of the LLLI Board of Directors