Editorials

EDITORIAL

A loss for Donald Trump is a win for babies everywhere

FILE -- A mother unable to nurse feeds her child donated milk in New York, Oct. 20, 2013. The Trump administration used threads of trade sanctions and withdrawal of military aid to try to block a measure at the World Health Assembly that encouraged breastfeeding. (James Estrin/The New York Times)
James Estrin/The New York Times/2013 File
A mother unable to nurse feeds her child donated breast milk in New York, in a file photo. The Trump administration used threats of trade sanctions and withdrawal of military aid to try to block a measure at the World Health Assembly that encouraged breastfeeding.

Even though everything seems up for sale in the Trump era, including public health, the administration’s attempt to ignite a trade war with Ecuador — over the simple act of breastfeeding, in favor of Big Baby Formula — seems unusually crass. More to the point, it also amounts to an embarrassing failure on a global platform for a bombastic chief executive who brags about #somuchwinning.

It all seemed so simple at the spring meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva. As The New York Times reported, a resolution to encourage breastfeeding — long endorsed by global health advocates as healthiest for babies — seemed certain to pass. But the US delegation, according to the Times, sided with the $70 billion baby food industry.

And then the administration that has raised bullying to an art form didn’t disappoint, threatening Ecuador, which planned to introduce the measure, with a debilitating trade war and withdrawal of military aid. Ultimately — and we’re not making this up — Russia intervened, and the resolution passed. “We feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world,” a Russian delegate told the Times.

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Although US officials issued a denial, Vox dug into the unchained id of Trump’s Twitter feed and found his jibe at a lawyer who “wanted to breast pump in front of me at dep.” Trump’s disgust notwithstanding, the benefits of this eons-old practice are well-documented. A study published in 2016 in The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, posited that the deaths of more than 800,000 children could be prevented every year through universal adoption of breastfeeding, in part because babies get antibodies from their mother that prevent infectious diseases. Lucky for the health of newborns everywhere that the administration came up a loser this time.