Natural Family Planning: Important Points about Breastfeeding

God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. (Humanae Vitae, n.11).

“The birth spacing effects of breastfeeding in women have a profound effect on infant well-being, and breastfeeding still prevents more pregnancies than all forms of artificial contraception.” (“Lactation and Fertility,” McNeilly, Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia, 1997; 2(3): 291-8)

In conclusion to my series of blogs on breastfeeding and natural child spacing during NFP Awareness Week, I would like to make some important points about breastfeeding and natural family planning, points that I have stressed repeatedly over the years.

• Ecological breastfeeding provides natural child spacing. It is a form of natural family planning.

• Ecological breastfeeding is the only type of breastfeeding associated with extended breastfeeding infertility. Exclusive breastfeeding, by itself, is insufficient for this purpose.

• A nursing mother can use systematic NFP successfully once her fertility returns. She does not have to wean her baby.

• Extended breastfeeding and extended amenorrhea are the norms.

• Breastfeeding brings both physical and emotional benefits to both mother and baby. Experts emphasize the importance of the presence of the mother during the first three years of life for optimal emotional development of the baby. Prolonged lactation ensures the presence of the mother. God’s ways are very good.

• For good reasons, the Catholic Church has long promoted breastfeeding.

I encourage readers to do all they can to promote eco-breastfeeding to relatives, friends, clergy, and parish members. If a mother is interested in the apostolate of promoting breastfeeding in her parish and encouraging mothers to nurse for at least a year, please contact Catholic Nursing Mothers League.

If couples are interested in promoting eco-breastfeeding, they can learn and teach the Kippley-Prem way of Natural Family Planning which includes the covenant theology of sexuality, eco-breastfeeding, and various options of the Sympto-Thermal or Cross-Check Method through our online “How-To” NFP manual and it’s free!

Why breastfeed?
When we breastfeed our babies, we legitimately anticipate all the benefits for both mother and baby Some NFP teachers, however, now believe and teach that it is wrong for the mother to use breastfeeding only for infertility purposes. How wrong they are!

It’s hard to imagine a mother breastfeeding only for natural baby spacing. But if she did, so what? There is nothing wrong for a mother to anticipate the many benefits of breastfeeding for herself and for her baby. There is nothing wrong for her to desire and to enjoy the breastfeeding amenorrhea that God built into his plan. In fact, breastfeeding amenorrhea has many benefits in itself.

1) Breastfeeding amenorrhea helps a mother to maintain her store of iron because her iron is not lost in menstruation. Thus breastfeeding offers protection against anemia.

2) A lengthy amenorrhea is a preventive measure or protection against ovarian cancer. Some medical doctors recommend drugs to reduce the menstrual cycles as a preventative measure against ovarian cancer. God provides this absence of cycles naturally through his breastfeeding plan.

3) The extended amenorrhea helps the mother emotionally to meet the needs of the baby she currently is mothering. We have met mothers who have had three babies in three years and know how hard this has been on such mothers.

4) Most importantly, a lengthy amenorrhea is good for the next baby’s health. Studies show that the best spacing for the health of the offspring is 2 to 2 ½ years between babies. Again God’s plan offers this spacing naturally through breastfeeding.

Many mothers enjoy eco-breastfeeding. We were surprised by the number of mothers who came by our booth at the recent La Leche League International 50th Anniversary Convention in Chicago and expressed their appreciation for this form of mothering.

May all those involved with family planning, especially natural family planning, do all they can to promote breastfeeding and its health benefits for both mother and baby, and may they recognize and teach that these health benefits also include an extended amenorrhea through breastfeeding. Extended breastfeeding and extended amenorrhea is the norm in God’s plan.

The special kind of breastfeeding to be taught for spacing babies is eco-breastfeeding. Eco-breastfeeding is an excellent NFP option.

World Breastfeeding Week will be celebrated August 1-7, 2007. I will do daily blogs on the importance of breastfeeding and its related research during that week.

Sheila Kippley
NFP International
www.nfpandmore.org
Author: Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood (Sophia, 2005)
Natural Family Planning: TheQuestion-Answer Book (e-book
at this website, 2005)

One Response to “Natural Family Planning: Important Points about Breastfeeding”

  1. Penny Piercy says:

    By practicing ecological breastfeeding, my first three children were without any effort spaced 4.5 and 3.3 years respectively, since I typically enjoy lactational amenorrhea for 27-29 months postpartum. For a 10-year stretch (1992-2002) I had only 10 periods. (In the interest of “full disclosure,” I should note that this 10-year period also included a pregnancy loss at 16 weeks gestation between baby #1 & baby #2; the remains were not delivered until 36 weeks gestation as we decided to let matters proceed naturally. Therefore there is an “extra” year between our first two living children.)

    As an LLL Leader, I have encountered many mothers who have easily gone two years without a fertile cycle when they practice ecological breastfeeding, including one woman whose cycle had resumed with her 2.5 year old and then, when an extended trip out of the country caused her toddler to increase nursing, she returned to a state of lactational amenorrhea for another several months until they returned to their home in the U.S.! I have also seen many mothers who were exclusively breastfeeding who were disappointed to have fertility resume well before the end of the first year. I believe their experience illustrates the crucial difference between eco-breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding. While more mothers have become aware of the value of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and are practicing it, it seems as if fewer mothers are practicing eco-breastfeeding these days as breastfeeding and mothering become more commodified.