A spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) told the Times that USA delegates objected to the resolution because it placed "unnecessary hurdles" in front of women who choose not to breastfeed, and "stigmatizes" formula-feeding-a claim physicians rejected on social media. At first, the United States delegates attempted to simply dilute the pro-breastmilk message, voiding language that called for governments to "protect, promote, and support breastfeeding" and limit promotion of competing baby food products that experts warn can be harmful.
Details of the standoff were revealed in a New York Timesreport that said the US forced Ecuador, the resolution's sponsor, to drop the proposal.
After several other Latin American and African countries declined to introduce the measure, fearing retaliation, Russian Federation successfully proposed the measure without facing threats from the U.S.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, followed by breastfeeding plus other appropriate, nutritious foods thereafter.
The resolution is backed by more than 40 years of research showing the benefits of breastmilk for newborns and mothers, especially when compared with breastmilk substitutes.
The measure was expected to be introduced by Ecuador.
Efforts to further promote breastfeeding initiatives in 2018 were met, reportedly, with unexpected hostility from U.S. The strong-arm tactics worked, and Ecuador dropped its support of the resolution.
An Ecuadorian official said that his government did not anticipate the harshness of America's response.
"The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children", the spokesperson said. It simply acknowledges the scientific consensus that breastfeeding is the healthiest option for infants, and works to regulate infant formula manufacturers so that they are not lying to consumers. These are situations during which it has been common to solicit formula donations for the affected countries, says Maaike Arts, an early childhood nutrition specialist with UNICEF.
"We were talking to all the other countries and could see that they were backing off and very frightened that they would be sort-of got at by the U.S. government if they went forward", she said, noting that a lot of countries -particularly poorer ones- take money from the U.S. in some form of aid so it is "a big deal for them to actually lose that money".
But baby formula represents a huge global market - worth $47 billion in 2015, according to Euromonitor International - dominated by a handful of groups, several of them American, with emerging markets accounting for most current growth.
The U.S. delegation doesn't agree with a public health policy of keeping information away from women who are feeding their children.
And if the report is true, he said that this incident suggests that when countries do not fall in line with US policy, "they are going to go after them and penalize them economically for doing that".