Archive for December, 2018

Natural Family Planning: Ideal or Norm

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Occasionally one reads that  “NFP is promoted as an ideal option for couples.”  For 50 years I have seen the use of only natural methods of conception regulation treated as an “ideal” with the inference that such an ideal cannot be attained by normal married couples.  The reality is that chaste NFP is not an “ideal” in the sense of something nice but necessary, anymore than marital fidelity is such an “ideal.” NFP is the norm when couples have a sufficiently serious reason to postpone or avoid pregnancy.

Also, what is usually not taught is Ecological Breastfeeding both for the tremendous benefits for baby and mother and also for its natural spacing of births.  Seminarians, priests and bishops deserve and need to know this reality.  They would do themselves a great favor by obtaining a copy of our NFP manual, “Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach.”  I recommend the coil-bound edition because it lies flat so easily.

Chapter 1 in this manual is an exercise in evangelization.  Chapter 6 is devoted to Ecological Breastfeeding.  I regret to say that no other organization teaches this.  Every year, researchers publish new benefits of breastfeeding, and Ecological Breastfeeding maximizes these benefits because many of them are dose-related.

When we founded the Couple to Couple League at St. Odilia’s parish in the fall of 1971, we included the teaching of Ecological Breastfeeding as part of our standard instruction.  I think that the enthusiasm that many couples had for this contributed greatly to the spread of CCL throughout the 70s.  Unfortunately, in its self-styled “Extreme Makeover” of 2007, the CCL management completely dropped that teaching of ecological breastfeeding along with the teaching of the covenant theology of the marriage act.

Couples cannot choose to practice Ecological Breastfeeding unless they are taught about it.  That’s the simple reality of the first principle of psychology.  That’s why seminarians, priests and bishops need to learn these things so that they can later encourage and teach them. Some couples have learned that they can use ecological breastfeeding alone to space the births of their children. It is God’s plan for families.

John F. Kippley

Natural Family Planning: Adequate Instruction

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

What constitutes adequate NFP instruction as part of Catholic education?  First, instruction in Natural Family Planning should be in the context of Christian discipleship and chastity. Catholic moral teaching must be integrated into the instruction. The NFP course should NOT be just a course in female and male fertility.

Second, the course should respect the first principle of educational psychology: you can choose only something that you know about. That means that couples should be taught not just one sign of fertility but all three of the common signs—basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and the cervix itself. Only in that way can students be free to choose among common and morally acceptable systems of fertility awareness. I don’t care what sign or signs they actually use, but fairness in fertility awareness requires this much.

Many priests and bishops have been led to believe that the mucus-only systems are just as good as or even better and more effective than the cross-checking mucus-and-temperature system. The US Bishops’ Human Life Foundation (1968-1993) persuaded the NIH to conduct an unbiased study to resolve the conflicting claims of the contrasting systems. Their report in 1981 stated that the cross-checking system was more effective because the Billings mucus-only system had more unplanned pregnancies by a ratio of two to one. Yet many dioceses still offer only mucus-only systems or give them so much backing that the cross-checking system can be found only with difficulty.

Third, NFP instruction should also include the teaching and promotion of Ecological Breastfeeding. That’s the form of baby care in which mother and baby remain together, and that mother-baby togetherness thus encourages and enables frequent nursing via the Seven Standards. Every kind of breastfeeding does some good, but the frequent suckling of Ecological Breastfeeding maximizes the great health benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother. It truly is God’s own plan for nutrition, protection, and spacing babies.

John F. Kippley