The largest union of registered nurses in the U.S. strongly condemned the Trump administration’s opposition to a resolution that encourages breastfeeding as an attempt to kowtow to a profit-seeking infant-formula industry.
National Nurses United (NNU) said the administration’s opposition ignores science and jeopardizes the health of babies and mothers worldwide.
“By refusing to lead the way on this family affirming, uncontroversial resolution, the Trump administration is sending a message to the world that the U.S. government does not care about babies, mothers or science,” said NNU Executive Director and registered nurse Bonnie Castillo. “Breastfeeding is unquestionably seen as the clinical gold standard for infant and mother health, not only by the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but by nurses around the world who care for mothers and babies every single day.”
Nurses point out that breastfed infants have a reduced risk of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome.
Meanwhile, mothers who breastfeed can experience lower risk of negative health impacts such as heart disease, ovarian and breast cancer.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond infancy into childhood and all the way into adulthood, with significant physical and emotional benefits for mothers as well.
President Trump took to Twitter to defend the opposition to the resolution, citing formula as a way to address “malnutrition and poverty.”
The NNU points out that formula has been a cause of malnutrition in areas of the world where it is impossible to mix it with clean water or in clean bottles, or where it is priced out of reach of mothers who are unable to breastfeed.
They also say that research has shown the six major manufacturers of baby formula — Nestle, Danone, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Abbott, FrieslandCampina and Heinz — have aggressively marketed their products with little science backing up their nutritional claims in order to increase corporate profits.
“Women have to breastfeed their infants in countries where the access to clean water is problematic,” said Cathy Kennedy, a registered nurse and vice president of NNU’s neonatal intensive care unit. “Why would we encourage any mother to use powdered formula with dirty water? That would be a death sentence.
“We have always encouraged our mothers to provide expressed breast milk for their infants,” Kennedy said. “For our micro-preemies, if the mother is not producing any breast milk, we will get permission to give donor breast milk up to 32-34 weeks gestation, when the infants can then begin actual breastfeeding. We know that there are significant benefits to breastfeeding that impact the health and well-being of the infant.”
NNU said that there are reports that the Trump administration has pressured countries that support the breastfeeding resolution and has threatened sanctions on Ecuador.
“In the U.S., we already have an environment that does not promote breastfeeding,” said Thorild Urdal, a labor and delivery nurse. “We have no guarantee for a decent maternity leave, while women in other countries have longer leaves of absence and guaranteed breastfeeding breaks at work. Because we already have lots of obstacles in the U.S. for optimal breastfeeding that other industrialized countries to do not have, I just find it outrageous that we can’t even support this simple, common-sense breastfeeding resolution.”