Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus

Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus
Nursing Madonna (wikimedia commons)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

NFP Awareness Week - Ecological Breastfeeding

It is Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week 2014.  Did you know that Ecological Breastfeeding is a form of Natural Family Planning?  We all know how wonderful breastfeeding is for mother and baby; there are hundreds of benefits!  However, the child spacing effects of ecological breastfeeding are great, too!

So what exactly is ecological breastfeeding and how is it different from the way many women breastfeed?  It is a lifestyle of breastfeeding and mothering that tend to contribute to months or years of natural infertility.  It involves nursing frequently - day and night, giving baby only breastmilk at the breast for about the first six months, avoiding pacifiers and bottles, comforting baby at the breast, sleeping with baby for a daily nap feeding and at night following safe cosleeping guidelines, and avoiding schedules and separation from baby.  Statistically speaking...."70% of ecologically breastfeeding mothers experience their first menstruation between 9 and 20 months postpartum," according to Sheila Kippley of NFP International.

The above-mentioned Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding are all fine and dandy, but have any real women successfully spaced their families through this special lifestyle of breastfeeding and mothering?  YES they have! Here are some of the personal success stories:

"I had 7 months, 13 months and 9 months. Basically, I was infertile until the day they started solids and would have my period approx 12 days later. Although with this pregnancy (pregnancy #4) I wasn't able to get pregnant until I fully weaned my son at about age 2 1/2. I got pregnant less than a month later with my next ovulation. I got pregnant with #3 while I was nursing #2, when she was around 20 months of age and nursed until about week 23 of the pregnancy. I only had 3 periods between when my fertility resumed at 13 months of age and getting pregnant at 20 months, she was my truest "ecological" nurser and very intense at it."

"With my first 3, my fertility returned at 15 months postpartum. I would nurse them to sleep, lay them in their crib and then get them when they woke the first time, then they would sleep with me in our bed the rest of the night. With my 4th, I didn't use a crib and she slept with me all night long and my fertility didn't return until 20 months. With my 5th, I wore him in slings a lot more and also didn't use a crib, we are at 24 months with no return of fertility yet!"

"I just successfully charted the return of my fertility 3 years and 2 months since my last period."

"I had a late return to fertility at 25 months due to breastfeeding (even with returning to work)..."

"I've gotten my cycle back right around the two year mark with each of my 3."

"I have five children and have had between 21 and 30+ months of infertility with each one due to
breastfeeding.  I am currently still in amenorrhea - thus the 30+ months I just listed."

"With my second I used Eco-breastfeeding fully until he was one year old.  And then we did everything but the nap. My cycles returned at 21 months postpartum."

"My breastfeeding infertility was 12 months,14 months, 17 months and 15 months."

"Ecological breastfeeding has felt like nothing more than a style of mothering that came naturally to me. I take my babies with me everywhere till about one year old, I don't bother with any pacifiers or bottles, nursing provides all of their calories till they very gradually start eating solids at their lead (which has been around 10 months), and we cosleep till at least a year and a half. I have felt so satisfied that parenting this way that warms my heart has, as a natural consequence designed into our bodies by God, given me lactational amenorrhea for 15 months, 18 months, 12 months, and 16 months after my four babies thus far."

"In my case with a low milk supply, I used a supplementer for a year with formula at the breast and still got one year of no cycles!  Other babies were 12-14 months with no cycles."

"I have 4 children and practiced ecological breastfeeding with all.  I had 19 month, 16 months, 12 months and 3 months of infertility.  For my last child, it was a shock to have my cycle return so early as I nursed him the same as the others.  I later realized it was probably a thyroid issue that caused my cycle to return – what a drag!  Ecological breastfeeding and the related infertility is such a gift!  So thankful I learned of it from Sheila’s book, which I read back when my first baby was just a few months old."

"My breastfeeding infertility has been 14 months long with 4 children in a row! I am nursing my fifth child but because I slept like a rock a few nights and she didn't ask to nurse those nights my cycle is showing signs of trying to return at 3 months old. The last two weeks though she bumped up the night nursing and I'm noticing it starting to be suppressed again."

"27 months, 24 months, 19 months, 21 months, 24 months.  Frequency is the key.  And I found (by pure accident, b/c I didn't know Eco breastfeeding even existed when I started) that nap-nursing & sleep-nursing (letting baby suckle for his whole nap (whether I napped or stayed awake reading/typing/etc. didn't seem to matter) & both of us sleeping while he nursed on and off all night) was one of the biggest keys to frequency...I believe that attempting every principle of Eco breastfeeding you can is worthwhile even if you don't get the very extended lactational amenorrhea, because doing whatever you can is still good for baby and still good for you, physically, especially."

"With my first 4 babies, I worked part time, but breastfed and pumped milk on the two days a week that I worked. We followed all the other guidelines for eco breast feeding. My fertility returned at 6 months, 5, 2, and 5 months. I was home with my last two babies and fertility returned at 8 months after each.  It is a very delicate thing. After my third baby, I returned to work two months after he was born, and I got my period the next day. With my youngest who is now 8 months, I attended a birth as a doula, so was gone for about 10 hours, my period returned within a week of that day."

For encouragement in the ecological breastfeeding lifestyle, go to:

NFP International blog posts about ecological breastfeeding

CNML blog posts about ecological breastfeeding

Natural Mothering

Chronicles of a Catholic Nursing Mother

Info about ecological breastfeeding at the CNML website

CNML yahoo group

CNML Facebook group

CNML Facebook page

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Breastfeeding while Homeschooling

There are a number of breastfeeding mothers who are also homeschooling their children.  I thought a post on this topic would be helpful for those feeling overwhelmed.  Here are some words of wisdom from Catholic homeschoolers:

1) Consider carrying baby in a sling or baby carrier while he is sleeping or nursing to free up your hands to help the older children with their learning activities.

2) Keep a pillow on the couch with you so you can be more comfortably nursing a baby or toddler while reading to your older children or so you can prop up the baby while you help older kids with their activities.

3) Your baby will be small for such a short time in the whole scheme of things so a lot of learning will be centered on caring for your new little one in the beginning.  As the baby gets older, you will become more adept at nursing him at the kitchen table or while sitting on the floor amidst the older kids and a bunch of books  :) Also, consider alternative places for learning like your bed!

4) Consider having the older kids help you with the baby when you are assisting another child with homeschool activities.  Also, DVDs, Netflix, computers, audiobooks,art supplies, etc. are all great ways for the older kids to learn when you are actively taking care of the baby or nursing him.

5) Be gentle on yourself if you and your children do not get everything done in a day that you had planned.  A lot of moms who have just had a baby take a few months or more off of more structured learning activities to recover, rest and enjoy their new babies.  Your older children are still learning some of the most important lessons of life - how to take care of and love a baby and how to take care of you!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Breastfeeding in a Large Family

There has been some discussion on the CNML yahoo group about how to nurse a baby or toddler on demand while taking care of several other children and a home.  I am still working on this, myself, but I would like to share some of the ideas that have worked for my family of seven and also some of the wisdom from the mothers on the CNMLchat yahoo group.

1. First, be gentle on yourself!  If you have a newborn, take lots of time for rest and for recovery from  childbirth.  Do not feel like you you need to keep your house in the same state as before the baby was born.  Do not be afraid to ask a friend or your husband to do specific tasks like throw a load of laundry into the washing machine or empty the dishwasher.

2.  In today's society, many mothers and families do not live near extended family such as grandparents and aunts and uncles.  Because of this change in dynamic, mothers need to find creative ways to get things done.  Some mothers hire a teen babysitter to play with their children or to hold the new baby, while they do a little bit of cleaning or cooking.  Teens will work for lower pay than an adult and will really enjoy entertaining younger children because they are kids themselves :) If you have the funds, consider hiring someone to clean your house even once a month.  A lot of moms like the FlyLady website.  Even if you do not follow her program to a tee, she is great at encouraging you to make baby step type changes.  Her philosophy is that even a household task done imperfectly still blesses your family!  Her book, Sink Reflections is very encouraging and a great one to have on hand.

3. You might consider having your house toddler proofed in such a way that when your baby needs to nurse, you do not need to worry about him or her getting into something dangerous.  For example, have locks on the back yard gates and keep doors closed with door knob covers to keep toddlers out of older children's' rooms. Also, keep a basket full of special toys, books and CDs for your toddler for use solely during baby's nursing time.  A lot of moms have a quiet time during the afternoon when the baby takes a nursing nap (Fifth Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding) and the toddler also takes a nap.  Older children play quietly or read during that time.

4. Many moms find slings or baby carriers useful for attending to baby's need for closeness to mom and sometimes to help them fall asleep.  This way you can more easily hold your baby and still attend to an older child or a household task.  My favorite sling is the Maya Wrap, but there are literally dozens and dozens of different baby carriers and sling types out there.  Here is an article that discusses the many benefits of carrying your baby in a sling, wrap or baby carrier.

5. Sleep with your baby at night (Fourth Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding) using safe cosleeping habits.  In many cases, cosleeping at night makes for more sleep for mom.

6.  At the beginning of each day, pray and think about what the most important tasks are that need to get accomplished.  Take care of those at the first opportunity.  Also, give your older children age appropriate chores to complete around the house.  Some moms find a morning chore time works well, especially if everyone takes part - that way the children see you doing chores too.  Some moms have a more structured approach and assign certain chores to certain days.  The book, Large Family Logistics, has helped some moms cope with the challenges of a big family;  I have not personally read this book but I have heard that it is a good read.

7.  I have also found the "minimalist" type philosophy helpful in helping me declutter my house.  The idea is not to get rid of all your possessions, but to simply keep only what you love.  I would have to say that in terms of kids' clothing, I do not follow this approach.  I store all my children's outgrown clothes in bins labeled with the size and now that we have a little girl - by gender.  When I do come up with a bag of items we no longer need or love, I put them directly into my car and stop at the second hand store within a few days.  Actually, one advantage of breastfeeding your baby (as opposed to formula feeding) is that there is less likelihood of permanent stains left on clothes from him spitting up, so you can pass more clothes down to your later children.  This saves you money and is better for the environment.  Also, when considering buying a new item, think if you really need it or will it be useful or enjoyable in the long term. If you think about it, this approach is a very Catholic.  We are called to be good stewards of our possessions and to share with the needy.  Here is a book I really enjoyed on this topic: Clutter-Free with Kids.

8.  Remember that the baby and toddler times are short-lived.  Take time to cuddle your baby and play with your toddler.  Sometimes the vacuuming just needs to wait :)