A Bishop on Breastfeeding for Spacing Births

“You mentioned that Macabbees is the only place in the Bible that mentions the length of three years for breastfeeding in Biblical Times.  Back in the mid 60s when the Pill was being discussed on the news, my mother (an immigrant from Italy who never went beyond the 3rd grade) commented to me: ‘A pity the mothers today don’t know what my mother taught me.  I breastfed all my children for two years.  And that’s why there’s at least three years between each of you.’  To which I replied, ‘Mom , we had teeth already by that time.’  To which she replied, ‘I know, but I could teach each one of you not to bite.’  
       My five years in the Peruvian Andes taught me basically the same thing.  Their children were spaced by three to four years, and they were ever so well behaved in Church as toddlers.  No crying or screaming.”

+Victor Galeone, Bishop of St. Augustine, Florida; personal correspondence, June 4, 2004, quoted with permission.

Next Week: A Cardinal on Breastfeeding and Birth Spacing

Sheila Kippley
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood

11 Responses to “A Bishop on Breastfeeding for Spacing Births”

  1. ann says:

    How beautiful! Thanks to the kippleys for continuing to teach that breastfeeding IS a form of child spacing and thanks be to God for shepherds like the Bishop of Saint Augustine, early 2000s.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Wow! This a great story. We’ve gotten a lot of comments about our fifth child, who turned three months old yesterday, about how she hardly ever cries. She’s with me 24/7. With every child I am forever grateful for learning about ecological beastfeeding from you, John and Shelia.

  3. Grace says:

    Sheila asked me to share my story on the blog under the comments.

    I have a story about my experience with lactation amennorhea that I hope might help other mothers who are frustrated if they follow the seven standards and still don’t experience amennorhea. If milk supply is also an issue, they may have a similar problem to mine.

    My husband and I took an NFP class as newlyweds in 2000. Our teaching couple had a large family of their own, and the wife was a former LLL Leader. They talked about ecological breastfeeding and it left a great impact on us. We planned to parent our children in this way.

    Our first child was born in April of 2002. We had an unmedicated hospital birth and although breastfeeding was challenging to learn at first, we got it established and everything seemed to go fine. We followed the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding and I joined La Leche League and became a real “LLL mom”. I was always a little concerned about my milk supply, but my baby seemed fine. I had stopped feeling a let-down reflex when she was 6 or 8 weeks old, was never able to express even a drop of milk by hand, and my baby did drop in percentile *a lot*, but we thought maybe this was just her normal growth pattern. I started spotting when she was 4 months old and spending several days in bed doing nothing but nursing seemed to help, but my periods returned before she turned 7 months old.

    I always had a nagging feeling that just MAYBE there wasn’t enough milk for my baby, but I put that aside.

    Our second child was born in March of 2006 (we’d had some trouble conceiving due to short luteal phase). Beginning when he was 6 weeks old, I started to have a bleeding pattern of 7 days of bleeding, 7 days with no bleeding. This continued until he was 6 months old, when normal periods resumed. During that time, I went through a barrage of medical tests, saw a number of alternative practitioners, and no one could come to any conclusions. There was nothing physically wrong that they could tell. I experienced similar concerns that I didn’t have adequate milk supply, but my son grew all right, though again, his percentiles dropped a lot (he was born in the 90% and was down to about the 10% by age 6 months). We thought maybe it was just his normal pattern. By this time, as a La Leche League Leader and committed attachment parenting mother, I was confident that it wasn’t a management issue.

    Our third child was born in February of 2009. I experienced a similar bleeding problem postpartum as I had when her brother (my second baby) was born. Again we tried to find out what was going on, and nothing came up. It had not resolved by the time she was 8 months old. And also, at that time, we began to realize that she had stopped growing altogether — in fact, she had begun to lose weight. She was born at a healthy 9 lbs and 21 inches. By the time she was 8 months old, she only weighed 13.5 lbs and was only 24-25 inches long.

    Now we knew that I really didn’t have enough milk. I finally had the proper hormonal testing and with the help of an IBCLC friend and the book “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk”, we were able to discover that my body wasn’t making enough prolactin. It was at the very bottom of the normal range for a non-lactating woman, but not at all in the normal range for lactation. I started to take 60mg a day of domperidone (which we acquired from New Zealand because at that point, I didn’t have a doctor who was willing to support my NEED to breastfeed this baby). I ended up increasing my dosage to 90mg a day, and was able to produce a complete supply for my baby. She immediately began to gain weight — in fact, she gained 3 pounds in the first two months I was taking the domperidone.

    And, since beginning the domperidone, I have not bled at all. I have gone into a normal lactation amennorhea pattern, totally dry, no fertility signs at all.

    All along, it was my hormones that was causing both problems. When we have another baby, I will have domperidone on hand so I can begin taking it at the first sign of any problems with milk supply — and my feeling is that it will prevent the bleeding issues I encountered with babies two and three.

    Anyway, I’m hoping my story will be helpful to other mothers. I was so very, very frustrated with my first baby (and the other two, as well, actually), when I was doing everything “right” and not experiencing the benefits of lacation amennorhea. I mean, obviously I gained an AMAZING relationship with my babies, which cannot be downplayed (whether it was successful in creating amennorhea or not). I truly and very strongly believe that this is the Catholic way to parent babies. But I wish I had known from the beginning that it could be as simple as a blood test of my hormone levels and I could have had the benefits of lactation amennorhea (and less worry about my babies’ growth, too).

    Hopefully my story will help other mothers.

    P.S. I started the domperidone when my baby was just shy of 9 months old, she’s 14 months now (not too interested in solid foods), and nursing and gaining weight beautifully. In addition to the fact that I’ve had no fertility signs since then. I would not take the domperidone to act as a “contraceptive” — I am purely using to get my hormones to where they should be for nursing. And now that nursing is working properly, my body is responding the way it should have all along. I think that should be clarified because I would hate to see people actually buying domperidone for the amenorrhea that it causes, rather than for the actual purpose of balancing hormones for breastfeeding success. Incidentally, domperidone isn’t legal in the US and must be purchased overseas.

  4. ann says:

    Thanks for posting. This will help many folks.
    I had low milk supply with my last three, and used a nursing supplementer at the breast with formula, which still gave me about a year of lactational amenorrhea. I was put on thyroid medicine with the last two but my milk supply was still low and there was also low weight issues for the babies.
    I had read something about prolactin being low but read or knew nothing about being tested or how to supplement for it. This will be very useful for women to ask about and get some help. As a La Leche League Leader, I still get calls where the mom does seem to be doing everything ‘right’ and I can now discuss this as well.

  5. ann says:

    On second thought, I had heard of the drug you mentioned but I don’t believe American doctors recommend it because of side effects. It is similar to ‘Reglan’ which is also not often prescribed as it seems to be dose dependent to work and is only prescribed for a short time with mixed results.
    I had heard of the book on ‘making more milk’ but since i was peri-menopausal, I did not look into it for myself; maybe now I will since you found it useful. I had not met anyone who read it.

  6. Jennifer says:

    My story is similar to Grace, although my supply issues have been due to low mammary gland tissue in my breasts, and I have Hashimoto Disease (thyroid disease). I recently had my fifth child in Feb, and this is the third child I am breastfeeding. I had to supplement with my third and fourth up until they were five months old or so, when they started eating solids. I have taken Domperidone with all of them, and am currently taking it along with a Goat’s Rue tincture. This was on the recommendation of my lactation consultant as it is known to build new mammary tissue. This, along with the domperidone, has increased my supply for my three month old to where we are weaning off of supplements and she is close to being EBF. A first for us.

    I, however, experienced no return of menstration until 19 months and 21 months, and that was with bottle supplementation for the first five months of their life. I know I am the rare person for that to happen (even my Catholic OB said so), but even with supply issues, lactation amennoreha CAN happen. I am living proof. I know that I will most likely not have a return of fertility closer to the two year mark, especially now that my current baby is receiving full pacifying at the breast with the use of the SNS when we need to supplement. She has only received a bottle a few times, and that was within the first four weeks of her life.

    I sleep with my baby, and pretty much take her everywhere with me. I nurse on demand, and know that nursing at night is a huge factor in the return or non-return of fertility. My baby has never slept in a crib (number three and four didn’t either), I wear her in a Moby Wrap or Mei Tai, and she hardly ever cries (which is not to say EBF babies don’t…my fourth screamed for the first five months of his life while we did the same with him).

    Many thanks again to John and Shelia for continuing to teach Catholic couples everywhere about EBF and natural child spacing.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I also strongly recommend to any mother who has been diagnosed with thyroid disease to put herself under the care of an endocronologist. This is their speciality, where as you may not get the proper care and be put on the right dose with a normal GP or family internist. At least this was my experience.

  8. ann says:

    Good tip – and one with breastfeeding experience would be better.

  9. Grace says:

    An endocrinologist with breastfeeding experience would be ideal, Ann. Unfortunately I’m a member of a large HMO and only had access to one endocrinologist, who was unfortunately very misinformed about breastfeeding. I had to fight really hard to even get my PCP to test my hormones, or to refer me on to the endocrinologist when the prolactin levels came up WAY too low for breastfeeding. Unfortunately, the endocrinologist wasn’t helpful at all. By this time, I had come to the conclusion to at least try the domperidone (which, you are correct, Ann, isn’t available in the United States — I ordered it from New Zealand). I made this decision under the advice of an IBCLC who I trust and through the information in “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk”. As an LLL Leader myself, I had heard of domperidone but also didn’t encounter very many women with true supply issues, so my own experience with it was only the second encounter I’d had with someone using it.
    Domperidone is a very safe drug, it doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier so it has very few (if any) side effects, and is classified as L1 in Hale (which is rare! Even ibuprofin isn’t L1!). Reglan, on the other hand, while legal in the US, is contraindicated in anyone who has experienced depression, has a large number of potential side effects, must be weaned off of very carefully, and is currently subject to a class-action law suit.
    I wouldn’t suggest that anyone just go order domperidone for themselves without first discussing it with a lactation professional, but it is a safe drug and I know it has helped many women — including me! I’ve been SO grateful for it, even though I’m usually a person very reluctant to take anything, even Tylenol! I’ve always been that way — I like to let things work themselves out. But in this case, taking a medication has been a true blessing.

  10. Donna Taylor says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your experience reminds me of the great need to get more doctors on board who have an interest in breastfeeding, NFP and pro-life issues.

  11. ann says:

    I am happy for Grace and Jennifer’s stories, and outcomes–truly heroic — I wait for the day when eco-breastfeeding is the cultural norm. I am grateful to John and Sheila for their work and books, which enabled me to eco-breastfeed even with my special situations – I was so happy to have done it naturally with the prior four babies.