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We're not anti-breastfeeding, says The Department of Health and Human Services in response to the NYT report

HHS national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley tells Motherly, "Recent reporting attempts to portray the U.S. position at the recent World Health Assembly as 'anti-breastfeeding' are patently false."

We're not anti-breastfeeding, says The Department of Health and Human Services in response to the NYT report

So often, if the word "breastfeeding" is in a news headline the story that follows is about another study adding to the mountain of evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding, or a public health campaign to encourage breastfeeding.

That's what made a recent report from the New York Times so shocking. According to the Times, health officials were shocked when representatives for the United States government opposed a World Health Assembly resolution to encourage breastfeeding around the world.

The report, published Sunday, suggested American officials were acting in the interests of baby formula companies and threatened other nations with "punishing trade sanctions" during negotiations.

The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to Motherly that it was the lead agency in negotiations on this resolution, but denies that threats regarding trade sanctions were made.

Via email, HHS national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley tells Motherly, "Recent reporting attempts to portray the U.S. position at the recent World Health Assembly as 'anti-breastfeeding' are patently false."

Oakley continues: "The United States has a long history of supporting mothers and breastfeeding around the world and is the largest bilateral donor of such foreign assistance programs. The issues being debated were not about whether one supports breastfeeding. The United States was fighting to protect women's abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies. Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies."

According to the HHS, "the U.S. shares a common objective with other countries to promote breastfeeding as well as adequate and timely complementary feeding. We also believe in ensuring breast-milk substitutes are properly used, when necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution."

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and a spokesperson for the organization, Tarik Jašarević, says that globally, only about 40% of babies under 6 months old are exclusively breastfed. "If all infants under the age of 6 months were exclusively breastfed, we estimate that about 820,000 child lives would be saved every year," Jašarević tells Motherly via email.

When asked about the alleged behavior of U.S. officials reported in the New York Times, Jašarević explains, "We are not in a position to comment on exchanges between different delegations."


The WHO may not be commenting on what happened at the Assembly, but breastfeeding advocates and mothers are commenting plenty on the New York Times report, and there will likely be plenty more headlines about breastfeeding in the coming days.

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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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