NPR

Is Infant Formula Ever A Good Option In Poor Countries?

The breast milk vs. formula debate made headlines this week with reports of a U.S. effort to block a pro-breastfeeding resolution from the World Health Organization.
A woman breastfeeds her child in a village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Source: Phil Moore

The long-running breast milk vs. formula debate made headlines earlier this week.

The New York Times reported that the Trump administration had tried to remove language from a WHO resolution that would, according to reporter Andrew Jacobs, "promote and protect breastfeeding around the world, especially in developing countries" and limit the promotion of infant formula.

President Donald Trump tweeted his rationale for the U.S. position:

Public health professionals have a different perspective: In poor countries, a mother's decision about breastfeeding can be critical for her baby's survival. That's because formula carries special risks for low-income families.

The first problem arises because powdered formula requires a dependable source of clean water, which is not available to, according to the World Health Organization. "In countries where women live in poor households with poor sanitation, it becomes a matter of life and death," says , director of Global Health Concentration at the Yale School of Public Health. "If the water is not clean, formula becomes a death sentence for the infant."

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