Calling the story “fake news,” he tweeted, “The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.”
The president’s tweet seems to mischaracterize the resolution, which was introduced in May and sought to encourage member nations to support breastfeeding.
It did not encourage them to limit access to formula.
The New York Times reported Sunday that the United States “upended deliberations” by arguing in the interest of infant formula manufacturers. The Times also reported that the United States threatened Ecuador, which was planning to introduce the measure, with trade sanctions and the removal of military aid.
In the face of the reported threat, Ecuador dropped the resolution. It was eventually sponsored by Russia, which, the Times reported, did not receive similar opposition from the United States.
In response to the Times’ story, Health and Human Services spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said “recent reporting attempts to portray the U.S. position at the recent World Health Assembly as ‘anti-breastfeeding’ are patently false.”
“The issues being debated, were not about whether one supports breastfeeding,” the statement reads. “The United States was fighting to protect women’s abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies.”
The difficulties that mothers face in breastfeeding have been well documented. A 2011 Surgeon General’s report cited a lack of maternity leave, social norms, and embarrassment as barriers to breastfeeding.
The New York Times article addresses shock from both the international and public health communities at the reported U.S. action.
In an emailed statement, Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, said his organization was “stunned” by the report.
“Fortunately, the resolution was adopted with few changes, but it is unconscionable for the U.S. or other government to oppose efforts that promote breastfeeding,” the statement continued.
ABC News' Meridith McGraw and Stephanie Ebbs contributed to this report.