Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Is Ecological Breastfeeding Contraceptive? By Sheila Kippley

To CNML moms:
I don’t think you can find an informed Catholic moral theologian anywhere in the world who will say that ecological breastfeeding is a contraceptive behavior to be condemned as seriously sinful.

According to Catholic Church teaching, couples need to have a sufficiently serious reason to practice systematic natural family planning.  Couples do not need to have a reason to practice eco-breastfeeding because the extended infertility of ecological breastfeeding is a normal, God-given side effect of following God’s plan for baby care.  It is not wrong to hope for normal breastfeeding infertility along with all the other normal good effects of breastfeeding.  

Mother and baby are one biological unit during pregnancy and after childbirth.  This concept of mother and baby being one biological unit is taught by some representing the medical profession and is also stated by the World Health Organization.  The WHO said: “Mothers and babies form an inseparable biological and social unit; the health and nutrition of one group cannot be divorced from the health and nutrition of the other.” (“Infant and young child nutrition,” Fifty-Fifth World Health Assembly, April 16, 2002)  The biological unit is the same except that during childbirth the baby switches positions from the uterus to mother’s arms. 

Just a couple of points to consider about ecological breastfeeding.

First, breastfeeding amenorrhea is a natural effect of Ecological Breastfeeding.  Biologically, the primary effect of breastfeeding is the nourishment of the baby.  Close secondary effects are the anti-infection health benefits for the baby, the nurturing benefits for the baby, and the health benefits for the mother.  Breastfeeding amenorrhea is another secondary effect. 

Second, there is nothing wrong to breastfeed with the hopes of experiencing breastfeeding amenorrhea.  In fact, the choice to do ecological breastfeeding with the Seven Standards enhances the primary and other secondary effects.
Third, because Eco-breastfeeding is sometimes inconvenient, I think that almost all mothers who chose to do Eco-Bf as their primary reason initially will change later and will continue to do the Seven or Six Standards primarily because of the effects of breastfeeding for the baby.

The idea that Ecological Breastfeeding is contraceptive is common in a few Catholic circles.  They believe that teaching ecological breastfeeding is wrong because it teaches mothers to have a lengthy breastfeeding amenorrhea.   And that means no baby or pregnancy during that time.  They believe that if moms nurse their babies, they should wean early in order to conceive again.  The important breastfeeding benefits for both mother and baby are ignored.  Saint Pope John Paul II told mothers to nurse for two years at least and mentioned that breastfeeding spaces babies.

Regarding those who say ecological breastfeeding does not space babies, all you have to do is ask them about each of the Seven Standards or send them my breastfeeding survey.  I have sent surveys to some “it doesn’t work” mothers but never had a survey returned.  I think they realized they were not doing eco-breastfeeding.  I did a study on those mothers in our NFP organization who said it did not work, but in no case were all the Seven Standards followed.  On page 113 of our manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach, we list behaviors of breastfeeding mothers which interfere with natural infertility.  This manual can be obtained at for a small donation.   It is free for the truly poor.

And most importantly, there are variations.  Some nursing mothers have a return of menstruation earlier than others with a rare few having a very early return. Secondly, many of us who go one or two years without menstruating are anxious for fertility to return because we are anxious to have another baby.  That desire to conceive again is a natural side effect when the breastfeeding and the oneness with your baby are so enjoyable.

What we need is for the Church to promote the natural spacing of children with eco-breastfeeding, for all NFP groups to teach the Seven Standards, and get Gina on EWTN promoting CNML and her book!

Sheila Kippley
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood
The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding
Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach

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