Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ecological Breastfeeding--A Crunchy Catholic's Dissent

For those unfamiliar with this blog, here's a few of my crunchy credentials: I cloth diaper, I make my own granola, I've had a non-hospital birth, I shop at a farmer's market, a good deal of my food is organic, I own the Ergo baby carrier, I exclusively nurse my babies for six months and I continue nursing well-beyond, I frequent Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog, and, as revealed in a previous post, I'm considering growing a moss backyard :-)

But despite my general tendency to embrace a "natural" approach to life, I must dissent from the advocates of Ecological Breastfeeding (EBF).

Before I begin, I would like to thank all of our wonderful readers for a lively and thought provoking discussion regarding the recent changes at CCL. A special thank you to Sheila Kippley for her comment on my post.

I posted the end of Ms. Kippley's comment below, but to view her thoughts in full, please see the comments on my What’s going on at CCL? post.
One respondent considered that a 40% return by 12 months was insufficient for many. There is no contradiction between practicing EBF [ecological breastfeeding] and practicing fertility awareness. According to the two studies we have posted on our website (Remfry and Prem), only 6% of breastfeeding mothers become pregnant before their first period no matter how they breastfeed. Experience shows that many, many mothers have ample signs of fertility when they ovulate prior to their first menses.

The statistics still stand. On the average, mothers who practice EBF will experience 14 to 15 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea. The 70% who experience 9 to 20 months of amenorrhea provide an almost exact mirror of the 68% of events within the first standard deviation of a normal distribution. EBF remains a wonderful form of natural family planning, and it is the preferred form for many. The normal distribution found in our studies will be found in other real life distributions, but only if the mothers follow the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding. Not following them is not “bad” or doing something “wrong,” but the biological reality is that the consequent reduction in suckling will most likely lead to a shorter duration of amenorrhea. People deserve to know all such facts so that they can make an informed decision.

As one of our other commenters noted, Sheila Kippley was a real pioneer in studying the effects of LAM in breastfeeding mothers. Many women, including myself, are grateful for her hard work and dedication to NFP research and instruction. As Ms. Kippley noted, it is a form of NFP that works really well for many women.

That being said, I would like to explain my own thoughts on EBF a bit more, and why I think CCL made the right move in getting rid of the 7 standards of EBF and opting instead to advocate only exclusive and continued breastfeeding.

Since EBF alone does not work for all women, it must be used in conjunction with fertility awareness for real reliability and, as a result, I don’t think it belongs as part of regular instruction in NFP courses. I do agree that NFP books should explain the connection between frequent suckling and LAM (as CCL does), but to advocate the 7 standards of EBF is taking things too far.

In addition, and more importantly, I don’t think that EBF is the gold standard of “natural mothering.” While I realize that there are quite a few women who choose to practice EBF, and I don’t condemn them for doing so, I hardly think that it the “ideal” way or the most “natural” way to mother one’s baby. It is just one way, and for many of us, it is not so obviously “natural.”

There are certain ways of mothering that are superior and preferred parenting choices that are natural and obvious to just about everyone. For example, it seems pretty obvious that God created a woman’s breasts to feed her infant. Alternating from this norm should only be done for a good reason, as even Pius XII once noted. Likewise, it seems pretty obvious that God intended a woman to birth her baby naturally, thus a c-section should only be performed for a good reason.

I don’t see the 7 standards of EBF as quite so obvious, and some of the standards may be very unnatural for many women. For those unfamiliar, the 7 standards are below:

1. Do exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life; don’t use other liquids and solids.
2. Pacify your baby at your breasts.
3. Don’t use bottles or pacifiers.
4. Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
5. Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.
6. Nurse frequently day and night, and avoid schedules.
7. Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.

(Emphasis added). Specifically, #2, #4, #5, and #6, can seem a bit un-natural to many women.

First, there is nothing “natural” about regular, long term, sleep deprivation. There are many, many, women for whom frequent night waking to nurse, even while lying in bed with their baby, leaves them feeling exhausted and unable to function well. Sleeping in chunks of less than 4 hours leaves most people feeling exhausted, especially after several months of this. For many moms, a baby in your bed means less sleep, not more.

A daily nap leaves many women more drained than before they laid down, AND a daily nap may result in hours of insomnia later in the evening. Everyone’s body reacts differently to sleep, and so for some a nap will actually result in less overall rest. Personally, unless I am pregnant, napping always results in a significantly delayed bedtime with poorer quality sleep. So again, this standard is not rising to the level of obviousness as, say, breastfeeding or natural childbirth.

Again, avoiding schedules doesn’t seem so obvious. To me, human beings thrive when functioning on a daily schedule. Sure, unexpected alterations are necessary at times and an important part of life, but a schedule is a very “natural” part of a healthy lifestyle. It seems the goal should be to get baby onto a loose schedule—like all well-functioning human beings—not to avoid schedules altogether.

All this being said, I’m not offering you my own 7 standards of breastfeeding. I’m not saying that you need to get your baby on a schedule, or that your baby should be in a separate bed, or that you should avoid taking a nap. If EBF’s parenting techniques are working for you, enjoy it. I am simply saying that the 7 standards of EBF are hardly magisterial or even obviously “natural,” though the old CCL regime seemed to think so, as evidenced by the prior CCL manual:
  • Ecological breastfeeding is the type of nursing that respects the natural order.
  • Because this pattern of baby care is so much more than just feeding, we also call it natural mothering.

While Ms. Kippley’s comment did not go so far as to say mothers are morally required to follow the 7 standards, it is hard to read the old CCL manual without coming to the conclusion that any alternative to EBF is less than ideal—that is, inferior.

No poor mother, especially a young mom having her first baby, should go into motherhood thinking that she has some sort of moral obligation to uphold the 7 commandments of ecological breastfeeding. I think this is the reason that CCL ditched advocating EBF and started advocating the more obvious elements of breastfeeding—namely, breastfeeding that is exclusive (for the first 6 months) and continued (until child-led weaning). And for that I give them 2 thumbs up!


loveyourmother said...

I’m glad you closed comments on the other page. I hope we can stay kind & loving here, even in our zeal.

No need to prove “crunchiness.” I ecobf’d nearly a decade before I considered cloth diapers, organic food, baby wraps, even b4 having a natural birth. One doesn’t require the other, thankfully!
But “natural” means acting according to the *nature* of things. Acting according to the natural law. And since, by studying traditional societies still on earth, we can see that ecological breastfeeding *does* work for the overwhelming majority of them, we can see that it is built into our bodies by our Creator as a built-in way of spacing our children. Could it be more natural? It’s clear it’s “natural;” to me the only question is, “How can we learn from them to figure out exactly what makes it work?
Since EBF alone does not work for all women, it must be used in conjunction with fertility awareness for real reliability and, as a result, I don’t think it belongs as part of regular instruction in NFP courses.

I don’t see how these flow. NFP = Natural Family Planning. Ecobf is the most *natural* FP there is. How can it be out of place in an NFP course? It requires no calculations, no charting, no thermometers or computer software – just a knowledge & acceptance of what is normal in a human breastfeeding relationship. But our society has completely forgotten what is normal, and those interested in returning to the built-in child spacing mechanism w/i our bodies must struggle to re-learn it from scratch. If ecobf doesn’t work for women in our society, it’s b/c science has failed them in helping them to understand how their bodies work.

[Ecobf] is just one way, and for many of us, it is not so obviously “natural.”

The most fundamental definition of “natural” is not “what comes ‘naturally’/easily/instinctively/intuitively to me.” “Natural” is working according to our nature. Ecobf is built in to our nature. If it does not come “naturally” to women today, it is for the same reasons that breastfeeding itself, unmedicated childbirth, healthy eating, and good parenting no longer come naturally to us – while worshipping at the altar of technology in the 20th century, we forgot it all. You & I are the recipients of that lack of knowledge from our mothers & grandmothers. We have to study to find what used to come naturally.

Kat said...

Ladies, I love the discussion here and I think that we can learn a lot from each other! I'm glad that we're not just talking past each other, but that we're really trying to engage each other's points. Let's keep it up!

loveyourmother said...

Some further points –
#2 pacifying a baby w/ anything other than breasts is un“natur”al. Hard to realize in our sex-saturated society, but it’s what they’re made for. It’s why we *had* to invent pacifiers when we stopped bf’ing as a society – babies have a strong, innate need to suckle for both nutrition & comfort. It’s so strong, we recognized the need to replace it w/ something technological when we no longer offered the real thing.

#4 Sleep deprivation *is* unnatural, and that’s why I cosleep. Unless you’ve done it, you may not realize that for *most* ecobf’ers, we hear/sense the slightest stir & hook up again w/o even really waking up. (I was astonished when this first happened, b/c I was a HEAVY sleeper pre-motherhood.) Sleep returns immediately most of the time, for most people. Most of the time, I have no idea how many times he’s nursed at night, b/c I didn’t awaken enough to realize he was nursing again. By the emptiness of my breasts, realizing I’ve changed sides, my husband’s observations when he gets up (hours before me for work), etc., I know he has nursed, but not b/c it woke me and kept me awake. In fact, desperately needing to sleep while working full time w/ my oldest was what drove me to sleeping while nursing in the first place. I’m often perplexed at how to respond to questions about how much sleep I must be missing w/ my newborns. I don’t miss it – I get it all.

It’s important to know that even if it didn’t work this way for you, it works this way for most people, most of the time, all over the world, throughout human history.

#5 I truly wish this one would be changed to “nurse the baby during a full length nap at least once a day – either in your lap, in a sling on you, or while you both sleep.” What’s important is lots and lots of suckling, and not unlatching when he falls asleep. I think this “Standard” is the one that turns the most people off, & I don’t feel it gets to the heart of what is necessary – prolonged non-nutritive suckling – both for mother (LAM) & baby (comfort, security, spacing, full naps (my babies sleep best while nursing), & jaw development).

#6 A schedule is a natural part of life for a child & an adult. Not for a baby, who has spent the first 9 months of its life receiving nourishment 24/7. It is a known fact that scheduling feedings 3-4 hrs apart leads to many cases of failure to thrive . The idea that babies should feed only so often was brought to us by the bottle generation – it is not biologically based. Maternal restriction of breastfeeding is the #1 way to bring cycles back early – and since LAM is proven by anthropology, biology, and history to be a natural mechanism, we can safely know that anything (i.e., limiting access to the breast) that eliminates it is un-natural.

Just b/c it’s not “obvious” today doesn’t mean it’s not natural. The idea of breastfeeding and natural (or even vaginal!) childbirth as primitive, backwards, & unenlightened is ridiculously common, even today – not to mention 40 years ago! Natural infant pottying is *unheard* of among most Americans – yet it’s as natural as feeding or putting your baby to sleep. We have forgotten.

While Ms. Kippley’s comment did not go so far as to say mothers are morally required to follow the 7 standards, it is hard to read the old CCL manual without coming to the conclusion that any alternative to EBF is less than ideal.
It’s hard to read the LLL book w/o getting the same idea about breastfeeding in general, and that makes lots of formula feeding mothers mad. Does that mean they shouldn’t say it?

We should speak the truth - in love. W/o judgment. Always recognizing our own failings. But speak it!

No poor mother, especially a young mom having her first baby, should go into motherhood thinking that she has some sort of moral obligation to uphold the 7 commandments of ecological breastfeeding.
I have heard exactly this kind of thing said about breastfeeding itself, and all manner of aspects of parenting. Again – speak the truth in love. Ecobf is actually very simple – “Nurse your baby w/o restriction.” If we understand that this could be several times an hour for several years, and we see that as normal before we ever have children, then we don’t see it as an imposition. It is b/c our society sees children as such an inconvenience that this seems ridiculous. (The Standards are just an attempt to make practical guidelines for living this out in a world that has no idea. Again – for good reason does our Church portray Charity as a woman nursing her child. It is not just a manner of, but the very epitome of, self-donation – a total gift of self!! (one example:

Again, I would like to emphasize that (since we *don’t* know exactly what is needed for LAM) even if ecobf doesn’t result in extended spacing for a particular woman/baby combination (or if she is unable to practice a certain aspect for whatever reason), all the practices that lead to extended LAM are good for both mother & baby, anyway. And that’s simply b/c God made us to do them – they’re biologically expected by us. This is so tied in with the Theology of the Body!

[I’m realizing it’s pretty rude of me to tie up so much of your blog. I think that if I have more to say, I’ll just link to my comments on my own blog – I’m new to this world!]

John K said...

I am concerned about the use of "natural" and "unnatural" in the original post. One of the biggest objections to systematic NFP is that it doesn't seem very natural to abstain from the satisfaction of our sexual inclinations. Such a perspective equates "natural" with "doing what comes natcherly." Therefore it is important in any discussion related to NFP to make sure we are talking about what is in accord with human nature, not convenience, as loveyourmother has already written.
We are dealing with a fallen human nature, so it is quite expectable that living up to the demands of being fully human will be considerably less than convenient.
For another example, consider the Sermon on the Mount and the multiple commandments of the Lord Jesus about loving not only each other but even those who are persecuting us. I submit that there is little that is "natural" about these teachings in the sense of "doing what comes natcherly." Contrary to Marx's dictum that religion is the opium of the people, Christ gives us never-ending challenges to act contrary to "doing what comes natcherly." I further submit that one of the functions of the NFP movement is to advance the message of Christ that we are called be obedient to his commandments of love.

Regarding the inclusion of EBF and the Seven Standards in an NFP program, it seems to me that the primary justification for talking about breastfeeding of any kind in an NFP program is natural child spacing. And if you are going to do that, then it seemed to us back in 1971 and still today that we should make clear what is necessary to experience the sort of natural breastfeeding infertility that is common in primitive cultures. Today it is common to talk about making full disclosure. And that's precisely what the teaching of the Seven Standards is all about.

John F. Kippley

l said...

"the primary justification for talking about breastfeeding of any kind in an NFP program is natural child spacing."

This is an interesting point! Why should CCLI promote breastfeeding at all? (unless it's in the context of a form of natural child spacing)

And how many times I've heard people say that systematic NFP is totally un*natur*al - b/c a couple must abstain when a woman's drive is strongest?

Pam said...

This is a very interesting discussion. I think that Right Said Red brings up a lot of points of concern that many mothers have when they first learn about ecological breastfeeding. These are valid and proponents of ecological breastfeeding need to offer information and support to help mothers find their way as regards all of these issues.

That said, ecological breastfeeding is the human biological norm - a norm that our modern culture has simply forgotten. There is nothing natural about using pacifiers - the mother's breast is the original pacifier. As loveyourmother has pointed out, co-sleeping is the human biological norm - it's the Western style unnatural bedding and housing big enough to allow every member of a family his or her own sleeping space that makes this practice difficult or even unsafe in some circumstances. And we know that the natural child spacing that has worked throughout history (except in places where for CULTURAL reasons the natural child spacing effect of breastfeeding was not desired, or the role of mothers was seen as secondary to other roles for women) has worked just fine for the majority of women, until the widespread decline in breastfeeding in the mid-20th century.

I think it is perfectly okay, even for "crunchy" moms, to decide that ecological breastfeeding is not for them. But I do think that women deserve to be fully informed about all of their choices, and with the elimination of the teaching of EBF by CCL(formerly the only organization that provided complete information about this form of natural spacing), we just need to find other ways to get the word out - not to make moms who can't or don't want to practice it feel guilty or inadequate, but to inform, encourage and assist mothers who do.

Anonymous said...

hello loveyourmother,

I 100% agree with EVERYTHING you are saying. Way to go!! Your thoughts are, in my opinion, right on the money! I love how you explained all of the standards of EBF as natural and I could not agree more!!

I would be interested in knowing what your blog is so that I can visit :) Keep saying what you are saying more people have to hear this. Thank you for posting here, I appreciate reading your comments.

Gail said...

The main thing I don't understand about EBF is, are you really supposed to wake your baby to feed him throughout the night? I have a two month old sleeping for 8 uninterupted hours at night and I can't imagine waking her if she isn't hungry.

Sheila Kippley said...

No, you do not have to set the alarm to nurse your baby during the night. The first question to ask is: Are you sleeping with your baby? Babies who sleep with their mothers nurse 3 times more than those babies who sleep separately from their mother or in the same room as their mother.
There are 2 other factors which happen naturally. A mother with an uncomfortable full breast will nurse her sleeping baby before retiring or falling asleep with her baby to relieve the discomfort. In addition, if the mother drinks a glass of water before falling asleep, she will probably get a "bladder wake-up" call during the night and she can offer the breast as she goes back to sleep.
I strongly suggest mothers interested in ecological breastfeeding download for free Chapter 4 of our online manual. The instruction on eco-breastfeeding is in easy-to-understand question-and-answer format.
Sheila Kippley
NFP International

Joe said...

Who made who the arbiter of what is “natural”?

I have in my mind a scene from several thousand years ago. Some creative young mom, using primitive fabric, created the world’s first sling. Instantly, the great-great-great-great-grandmothers of the today’s EBFers swooped down on the young woman :

“It’s unnatural! It’s unnatural! Don’t you realize that women were made to hold there babies all day. That's what Eve did. Don’t you know that holding your baby in your arms all day makes your baby healthier! You're abandoning the designs of mother nature!”

There are bad innovations, but there are also good ones, too. Even if our ancestors co-slept, did they do so because it was natural, or because they had no other choice? If you lived in a one-room shack, of course you’d going to co-sleep -- not just with baby, but with Grandma and maybe even Uncle Earl. But if you asked Mom, “Hey, would like your own room tonight?” I don’t think it would take a rocket scientist to guess how Mom would answer.

If a person wants to get primitive, I say go for it. I think the Amish are cool. (Now that’s natural living!) But a primitive parenting style is by no means a better parenting style.

Sorry if this was too snarky.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just not educated enough, but what about all the warnings of NOT having your baby co-sleep with you? My husband is an extremely deep sleeper. He sleep walks and talks, and has grabbed me on occasion, totally in a dream, thinking I was "out to get him". There is no way I would let our infant sleep in our bed for fear of my husband unintentionally hurting our baby (rolling on him, grabbing him, moving him). He is in total agreement! And I would be willing to guess that someone would say, "don't sleep in the same bed as your husband", but we think that weakens a marriage.

On another note, I think we need to remember that what works for some, does not work for others. I am currently nursing my 3 month old. He does not use a pacifier, he has never had formula, I still nurse on demand, but he takes breastmilk from a bottle 4 days a month when I work. I don't BF him to space my children...I do it for his and my health. My child is now sleeping through the night, and again there is no way I would wake him up to nurse. I have a 2 year old who needs my attention during the day, and after a good 10-11 weeks of getting 2-4 hours of sleep a night, I prayed that my son would sleep a little more. My 2 yr old was getting a cranky, frustrated, exhausted mommy day after day, and she doesn't deserve that. My point? I believe God wants us to love our children the best we can, and do what's best for them. I believe God wants up to support each other, lift each other up, and be a network for each other.

One final do we know that God wants us to space our children a certain amount of time apart? Again, I may just be an uneducated Catholic, but I try not to presume what God wants.

loveyourmother said...

Dear Joe, the questions when facing all technology, whether chimera gene splicing or the first sling, are

-is it inherently immoral?
-are the benefits worth the drawbacks?

It's common to see babies as cramping a woman's style, but if you ask most mothers who peacefully nurse their babies through the night, interrupting the sleep of neither, if she would rather sleep alone, the answer is No. (Note the word "most.") Actually, the idea of the day when we no longer have a sweet-smelling, soft head in bed with us brings me to tears.

Add in the drawbacks of cribs and separate rooms (crying it out, emotional withdrawal (as it protects itself from the pain of separation), SIDS, less breastfeeding (and all the risks of that), increased cycles (the #1 way to increase your breast/ovarian cancer risk), less ability to observe baby, several months (at least) of getting up in the middle of the night to quiet baby, the pain of having to discern whether your reason for using NFP to space is "grave" or not), and you're increasing the number more and more (clearly not all mother/baby pairs experience all the drawbacks, nor all the benefits).

There needs to be a serious assessment of the consequences, intended or otherwise, every time we discard with tradition (whether religious or physical) for something new.

(I imagine, btw, that you'll find that women have used slings for as long as they've had babies. Work has to get done somehow.)

loveyourmother said...

I never wake my baby to nurse; he stirs and nurses. I imagine that there are *some* who will sleep 8hrs no matter what you do, but often, this happens b/c mother so desperately wants baby to sleep through that her actions help encourage that. I know that my first nursed less often than the others, and that it was a direct result of my thinking that nursing every 2hrs (or less!) was too often, and that they were "supposed to" sleep through the night.

On the very appropriate question of co-sleeping safety, the *only* studies, to my knowledge, showing a risk of co-sleeping, was among a native tribe that also smoked like chimneys. Something that all women, all over the world, have done for millennia cannot be inherently dangerous. We heed appropriate sleep precautions (like keeping comforters & toys away, etc.) and go from there. Cosleeping has often been associated w/ LESS SIDS risk b/c of increased observation, increased breastfeeding, and the fact that mother's presence helps regulate baby's breathing, sleeping, and heartrate. As always, a drugged or obese person should not cosleep, and if your husband is a thrasher, keep baby between you & the guardrail/cosleeper/bumper. Dr. Sears has a lot of information on cosleeping safety.

You might also want to look into physical causes for the unusual nighttime symptoms. (I know sugar & processed food affect my own sleep behavior dramatically.)

"another note, I think we need to remember that what works for some, does not work for others." A excellent caveat. I hope that one would get no other impression from what has been written on this page so far. As long as our child's welfare is foremost, rather than our convenience, and we are steeped in prayer, we cannot go wrong in our choices. We can become better educated, and perhaps make different decisions in the future, either toward or away from natural practices, but we will always be doing what's best for us *right now*.

"I don't BF him to space my children...I do it for his and my health" Ecobf is also for your and your children's health! See above! (cancer risk, etc.)

"My child is now sleeping through the night, and again there is no way I would wake him up to nurse."

One thing I'd like to get across is that if a mother never encourages the child to sleep through the night, he's very *likely* (there will be exceptions) to continue the natural pattern of slightly waking himself to nurse, then nursing them both back to sleep w/o disrupting either. The natural pattern is that a newborn never causes a sleep-wrecked mother. Obviously, there will be factors that create changes from that norm - hence the need for a serious relationship with Christ through prayer to discern when to deviate, slightly or greatly, from the biological norm. (For me, my full-time work caused me to start cosleeping when I didn't even know it had a name - I was desperate to sleep and afraid of dropping my 14wk old while nursing her in my chair at 2am & praying for her to go to sleep in her crib like a "normal baby".)

"One final do we know that God wants us to space our children a certain amount of time apart?" It's built in. We can get a picture by looking at the natural child spacing throughout history aross the world - 2.5 - 3 yrs, in general. Again, staying steeped in prayer will help us discern whether God is calling a specific individual to deviate from that norm, but I think it is telling that secular science has studied the issue of "ideal spacing," and time & again, looking only at physical & emotional factors, they have determined that a spacing of 2.5 - 3.5 years is most ideal for both mother and children. Prayer, prayer, prayer for discernment! That is the only foolproof method to sorting out God's will in individual situations!

texas mommy said...

As someone who cannot nurse her children (though I wear my babies and use a cosleeper), much of what I have had to do for my babies seems unnatural. Having pumped for well over a year of my life despite consulting no fewer than 5 lactation consultants, I would say that if I could nurse my babies standing on my head for 12 hours a day, I would probably give that a try. Since I still get upset talking about the fact that I can't nurse, I'll just say be thankful that you can in whatever arrangement works best for your family. What IS natural is a mother's self-sacrificing love. In my case it meant bottle feeding at night in addition to pumping around the clock. Situations are different for mothers who have to work or are very sick.

Obviously ecological bf was never an option for me, so I did feel judged/guilty from CCL's previous emphasis and some other Catholic sources. As a first time mom, I felt horrible that I couldn't do what was best for my baby. CCL's focus on NFP and a variety of returns to fertility reaches a broader audience and will hopefully spare some young moms the guilt complex over following certain rules when it is not always possible. LAM is certainly to be discussed, but there are some for whom it will not work. I am, however, thankful for the variety of information that is available.

Kat said...

Texas Mommy, thank you for your comment and for the reminder that we should be thankful to even have the opportunity to breastfeed without complications. You definitely did twice the work having to pump and then bottle feed - I don't know how you did it, but I think it's amazing that you did!

Anonymous said...

TX Mommy, there is no doubt that you are a Mother, and living the vision of Charity that our Holy Father Pope John Paul II had in mind when he exhorted us on the dignity and vocation of women.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the question of comparing how you feel when reading about ecobf vs. how you feel when reading about bf in general. Another question, gently, if you feel up to answering it - do you feel judged *whenever* you read about it, no matter how gentle the presentation? Does CCL/LLL's promotion of bf'ing make you feel judged/guilty? I'm wondering, from a human point of view, will someone who does absolutely everything she can always feel a twinge of (totally undeserved) guilt, no matter the presentation, or is there something that the promoters of ecobf and bf can do (and natural childbirth, etc., for that matter) that might minimize unnecessary pain for those who are absolutely unable to do the activity in question?

What things would you love to see that might make the promotion of the biological norm least painful for those who can't do it, no matter their heroic level of charity?

God bless you!

Melanie B said...

I've tried co-sleeping. Count me in the can't get a decent night's sleep camp. I'm a very light sleeper and frequently battle with insomnia. Just learning to sleep with a snoring husband has been a very, very difficult adjustment. I can sleep and breastfeed for limited duration but to really feel well rested I need to have some duration of time during the night in which the baby is nearby but not in the bed with me. When I was constantly sharing a bed with my nursing daughter I was getting such poor sleep that I was very afraid for my mental health and afraid that I was going to be a danger to my child because of a severely short temper and loss of ability to make decisions, drive safely etc. it took me a long time to get over feeling guilty about not sleeping with the baby. in fact, reading discussions such as this one still bring up all those feelings of guilt and inadequacy. I really wish promoters of ecological breastfeeding could be more sensitive toward the effect that guilt can have on mothers.

Pam said...

It's extremely sad to hear of a mom who, despite having made every possible effort, is disappointed in her hope of being able to breastfeed (or breastfeed fully, or nurse at the breast rather than pump, etc., etc.). It is even sadder to know that such a mother feels guilty about this disappointment, especially since guilt, properly speaking, implies some sort of knowledge of culpability. We all know that when a mother truly desired to nurse, and was either physically unable to do so, or because of circumstances beyond her control of any sort (needing to work outside the home in a job incompatible with breastfeeding, a difficult birth, insufficient physical, emotional, spousal or family support, lack of information, lack of encouragement, or even support or info that just came too late...)couldn't make it work, she is not in any way culpable for this. It's not her fault, and in this case feelings of "guilt", while they often are present, are completely inappropriate.

For a mother in this situation, it is natural to feel regret - that things weren't different, that things beyond her control made it impossible for her to do things any differently or for things to work as she had hoped. Even for a mother who chooses not to breastfeed (or not to breastfeed "ecologically" or not to follow some other promoted practice), if she has exercised her right of informed consent, she has nothing to feel guilty about, assuming her own honest judgment is that the alleged benefits of the practice really are not worth the (often real and substantial) risks or costs - to herself, her husband or her family. A mother in these circumstances must stay strong and be able to say, "I know I am doing (or I did) the best I can for my baby under my own unique set of circumstances." And she should have plenty of comfort and support and encouragement in so doing.

That said, it is not really a proper response to the situation of a deeply hurt and disappointed mother, grieving the loss of a certain type of hoped-for breastfeeding experience, for NFP and breastfeeding organizations to censor or withold complete information about the health, emotional, psychological, or even spiritual benefits of breastfeeding, both according to the human biological norm (ecological breastfeeding) or cultural breastfeeding (exclusive, scheduled or part-time). Without knowing all of the pros and cons of a particular practice, without hearing the best and strongest arguments in favor of it, women (and their husbands, families, health care providers and society) have no hope of being able to make a fully informed choice - either to adopt the practice or to forego it.

Furthermore, without strong public advocacy in favor of breastfeeding (all types), our society (and the Church) have no hope of being able to convince the larger community to take it seriously and provide the real resources of support, encouragement, information, acceptance and accommodation that are truly needed this day and age for a woman who really wants to (and is physically capable of doing so) to breastfeed, ESPECIALLY to breastfeed ecologically!

Ecological breastfeeding is very much counter-cultural this day and age. Without strong public education on its benefits and importance, directed not only at women, but at those from whom women need support, even more women who actually do honestly desire to practice it will end up unable to do so. They will lack the support or commitment of the very people upon whom they rely to help them make it work.

It shouldn't hurt women to hear about the benefits of ecological breastfeeding, even if they were not able to, or didn't want to practice it. The fact that it does says a lot about the culture in which we mother nowadays. Inappropriate guilt seems to abound no matter what choices a mother makes or what circumstances she faces. I hope that over time, 21st century mothers will find a way to cope with the many critical voices bombarding them with "expert advice" on every possible subject related to mothering. When we use our brains to filter and process information, follow our hearts as best we can under our own unique circumstances, and keep close to God in prayer for guidance, we should be able to find our way and be at peace.

Melanie B said...


speaking for myself, not for txmommy, in terms of minimizing pain for mothers who for whatever reason can't... to me the single biggest factor is acknowledging that they exist whenever you discuss the subject. the experience you recount of ecological breastfeeding, being unaware of when the baby wakes and latches on, has simply not been my experience. I am-- almost painfully-- aware of the baby's presence much of the time and often lie awake for hours while she nurses, hoping for the experience you describe and chasing it in vain. I would love to enjoy her presence sleeping blissfully beside me as I slumber peacefully and deeply but that experience has been rare and fleeting. You said you were a heavy sleeper pre-motherhood and I wonder if that isn't a factor. I've always been a light sleeper and have struggled with insomnia on and off since I was a teenager and have found the baby disrupts my sleep even more.

Also, re using the breast as a pacifier. Am I the only mother whose babies get cranky after too much sucking? Sure, sometimes they do the extended sleeping while sucking for comfort thing. But just as often they get to a point where being at the breast doesn't provide comfort. When I've changed the diaper and burped them and done everything I can and they pull away from the breast when it is offered and finally I give up and put them down and they cry for at most a minute or two and then fall blissfully asleep.

It seems like a fairly reasonable conclusion to me that my holding them is preventing them from sleeping and all they really want is to be put down. If anyone has an alternate explanation please let me know because this has happened with both my daughters.

Having read extensively about the wonders of ecological breastfeeding and the breast as the only pacifier a baby needs, I've always felt guilty when I resorted to putting down the crying baby and leaving the room and yet it seems to be the only thing that does work.

Anonymous said...

Melanie, you are wise not to force nursing on a child who doesn't desire it! Sometimes I've known of babies who do what you describe b/c of overabundant flow (often helped by switching sides only every 3rd nursing or so, avoid galactagogues, etc.), previously having gotten used to a pattern of being unlatched/laid down to sleep/etc. (often b/c mother has just recently learned of or desired to try some tenets of ecobf), is already accustomed to paci use (usually just here and there, like in the car, and unintentionally increasing) - but I do know of one mother who has none of these circumstances, yet some of her children still tended to fall asleep more easily on their own.

I also know of a mother who, after going through the usual causes of cosleeping difficulty (afraid b/c of magazine scaremongering is the biggest one, often they don't even realize that fear is what is keeping them awake; dietary causes of insomnia (it's amazing how many things improve when sugar and processed food are eliminated from the diet), and a few other things not coming to mind right now), still simply cannot get real sleep w/ baby in bed. She did it anyway, for nearly two years, and that makes her a hero in my book - but the fact that she's a hero also means that that level of sacrifice is neither necessary nor desirable in every case similar to hers. I know what's it's like to fall asleep while driving b/c of lack of sleep due to an infant, and while cosleeping helped me, that doesn't mean it helps everyone. One thing that mama does that really inspires me is that she says, "Ecobf is still best for our wellbeing, and I still support it, even though I can't do all of it - and I still try to offer unrestricted access the rest of the day." She still avoids other mother substitutes, etc. She's doing her absolute best, and leaving what she physically *can't* do at the feet of Our Lord. Such an inspiring approach, whether we're talking about bf'ing or building a house.

When speaking of ecobf, I'm more often speaking to the mothers who are told that something's wrong w/ their baby b/c he won't fall asleep the way the magazines say he should, when the reality is that *most* babies won't. *But* - I always try to keep in mind that this is by no means universal. I try to use words like "most" and "exceptions," but I wonder sometimes if I couldn't do more to help avoid provoking unnecessary guilt/pain/feelings of judgment. I welcome help w/ that!

AR's & J's mama said...

Texas Mommy,

I just want to give you a huge hug! It is someone in your circumstance that shows how a mother can be truly selfless. Many women who could not breastfeed (for whatever reason) would not choose pumping, and if they did, not for very long. The fact that you are doing everything you can to give your baby breastmilk shows how amazing you are! Please throw that guilt out of the window. You sound like an amazing mommy!! a.

Mary Alice said...

Hi, I have a question for John and Sheila Kippley, if you are still reading these comments.

I was wondering about whether a theological distinction occurs if we label EB as a form of NFP? For example, if EB is used as a natural way to feed a baby, then LAM is a side effect, the same happens for many women who are just nursing (though perhaps for a shorter period of time), even if they are not following the seven principles.

However, if EB is used for the purpose of temporary sterilization, one would need to have a just cause to be prevent a new life?

There may be many just reasons for needing this spacing, but as a mother of twins I cannot be convinced that having one baby is in and of itself a just reason not to have another.

Does the term "ecological" stem from the idea that the conditions of our planet lead justice to require that we limit our family size?

I ask this because I have never experienced an early return to fertility as being "let down" by my breastfeeding -- I have had, as Sheila notes in a previous comment, plenty of signs that my fertility was returning and my husband and I have been able to make a prayerful decision whether to use some form of NFP at that time or to be open to life as it would come.

Anonymous said...

There's quite a difference between having twins & having babies about a year apart. Ask someone who has done both! :)

Our bodies are made to make the accommodations necessary for twins. But when we have babies very close together, the second child is being nourished in a body that has not had its full opportunity to recoup its nutritional reserves, and being born to a mother that is trying to care for a child in a very needy, high-maintenance state of life (I tend to see toddlers as needing even more than newborns!).

One is natural and biologically normal. The other is common today, but not biologically expected.

I'm no Kippley, and no theological expert, but ecobf (or LAM) is the God-given, biologically normal period of infertility that God grants between babies (w/ exceptions), in exactly the same way that 3/4 of every month is the biologically normal and natural period of infertility that He grants in non-LAM women (w/ exceptions), and the biologically normal and natural and God-given period of infertility that He grants during pregnancy (no exceptions!). The couple takes no positive action to sterilize the woman; it is a natural and normal result of mothering her child the way God intended as the ideal in order to space children when there was no other (moral) way to do so short of complete abstinence - most of history. The "just cause" is whatever reason God designed it that way (for the bulk of humanity) in the first place - the physical & emotional health of the mother and children.

I would think very few people do ecobf "just" for the spacing, anyway. The benefits to mother & children are many, whether or not the spacing results.

Mary Alice said...

I have had both twins and single births about a year apart myself, so I don't need to ask, and of course there are differences, but in neither case did I feel that it was not possible to meet the biological needs of both children.

John K said...

Mary Alice raised a question dealing with morality: "However, if EB is used for the purpose of temporary sterilization, one would need to have a just cause to be prevent a new life?" "Loveyourmother" replied quite adequately and eloguently. It has been very satisfying to Sheila and me to see how well others have internalized the message we have tried to promulgate for over 30 years and are now expressing it as well or better than we can.
I think the definition of EBF may contribute clarity to the original question. After years of talking about it, we finally provided a definition in our current online manual. "Ecological breastfeeding is the form of nursing in which the mother fulfills her baby's needs for frequent suckling and her full-time presence and in which the child's frequent suckling postpones the return of the mother's fertility." One doesn't need any external "just reason" to respond as fully as possible to the needs of one's baby. On the mother's part, she is responding to a need. On the baby's part, he is also responding to a felt need, whether it be hunger for nutrition or hunger for affection.
A related question is whether it is good to do EBF for the sole reason of baby spacing. As "loveyourmother" has pointed out, that is a highly theoretical question. Nevertheless, such a question has been raised, and I have attempted to answer it. For my treatment, see our website,, then go the blog in the upper right hand corner. In the archives, select August 2007, and scoll down to August 19 for "Can a Breastfeeding Mother “Use” Her Baby?"
My thanks to the mothers who permit Sheila and me to contribute to this conversation.

John F. Kippley

texas mommy said...

To answer some questions asked...

I think access to information on breastfeeding is so important! My own struggles have convinced me of the need to have access to lactation consultants (our pediatrician has one on staff) and much more information for mothers on resources that are available. I am encouraged that breastfeeding is getting more support from so many different areas. I wouldn't have pumped for so long if I didn't think that it was important!

I am happy that CCL has not done away with encouraging breastfeeding, but am thankful that they are more fully presenting return to fertility scenarios for those who are not ecologically breastfeeding. My version (4th ed.) of the NFP book devotes less than 3 pages to return to fertility if bottle feeding.

As far as my thoughts on EBF versus more routine-oriented nursing...I think that it is not an issue of absolute truth so mothers using their judgment with respect to their family can be the only real judge of their situation.

We have talked about
mommy guilt and mommy pride
before on this blog. I recognize that it is not from God, but those early postpartum weeks as a first time mom are hard. I was reading Popcak's book, Parenting with Grace, and, lacking confidence as a new mom, began to feel that EBF was morally superior to any other arrangement.

This coupled with the lack of information from all the Catholic sources that I was looking at on alternative means of feeding babies led to major guilt issues. The moral dogmatism over EBF by some and the refusal by others to acknowledge that some people absolutely cannot breastfeed were the main culprits to my feeling inadequate.

Juris Mater said...

I'm late arriving to this discussion, and I'm sorry if my comment here has already been covered.

Ecological breastfeeding, even if it is successful in delaying the mom's return of fertility, seems very costly in its effect on the nursing baby.

From my observations of my three young children, when we're cosleeping, they achieve poorer quality sleep that gets worse and worse the longer we cosleep. Rather than growing into the ability to achieve deeper sleep and good sleep cycles as they seem inclined to do, cosleeping seems to train them to sleep lightly and to inferfere with their natural maturity into better sleepers. I have observed increasing fussiness in them as they are deprived of restorative sleep.

Second, when my babies are suckling constantly all day long, they're fussier. They always seem more content when they have a full feeding, starting with the lighter foremilk and reaching the hindmilk to complete the meal. Snack after snack of foremilk seems particularly irritating to their stomachs, and they seem constantly unsatisfied.

Also, I've seen some babies of ecological breastfeeding friends start out as mild-tempered and very manageable newborns and then grow fussier and more disorganized past the 3 and 6 and even 9 month marks. From what I understand, fussiness and disorganization are supposed to peak around 6 weeks, according to the baby's natural sleep and digestive system rhythms, then it's supposed to improve dramatically.

From what I remember, "ecological" breastfeeding refers to breastfeeding according to a natural mother-baby ecology. But is it really in keeping with the babies' all-important needs for restorative sleep and balanced nutrition?

Anonymous said...

The evidence seems clear to me that God built a child-spacing mechanism into our bodies (from the fact that it is known throughout the world & history in societies that use no mother substitutes, and from the confirmation science has given by repeatedly finding that that same spacing results in the most optimal mother-child health).

I have to be honest and admit that for me, that's all the evidence I need to know that ecological bf'ing is not only good for babies, but best for babies (always allowing exceptions for individual circumstances, which can be discerned through lovingly observing and responding to baby's particular needs). I tend to trust the language of the body more than recent technology-based “improvements” in most of my life – a trend which began for me personally when I accidentally discovered ecobf existed by accidentally doing it.

However, to respond to your specific concerns less philosophically – I can say that your interesting assessment of ecologically breastfed babies does not fit the experience that I have had with my 4 children, nor with the majority of the close to 100 women I've communicated with on their experiences (positive or negative) in ecobf. While I haven't read the first thing on "disorganized babies" since my first child turned one 9 years ago, and so can't comment on whether that pattern is the "normal" one, I can say that my children have followed the typical patterns of mild protective clinginess when they learn to crawl and again when they learn to walk, and all other behaviors, milestones, and patterns that the experts in the magazines told me were normal. Looking around me at other ecobf mothers, I see the same, and I see about an equal preponderance of babies naturally inclined to fussiness in non-ecobf populations as in them. I do tend to see more fussiness in babies who are encouraged toward independence in infancy, lasting into childhood - less security.

Could it be that we are using different words based on our own biases or understandings of what’s best? Could your “disorganized” be my “won’t submit to an arbitrary schedule,” your “unsatisfied” my “needs to nurse frequently,” your “fussy” my “has many needs for mother to meet?”

Recent research has consistently shown that babies who sleep deeply are at an increased risk of SIDS. I can't say whether you'd consider my babies light sleepers or not, but they seem to sleep soundly to me, waking 2-4x/night just long enough to latch on, and taking naps regularly during the day about the same as all other babies (2x/day at 12mo, moving to 1x/day between 18mo & 2yo, etc.). I do think it is a common modern misunderstand that babies "should" be sleeping through the night early (even by 12mo). Dr. Sears has an excellent summary of why this is not the biological norm.

It would be interesting to look more into the perception of ecobf = all foremilk. Frequent suckling, punctuated by several long nursings a day, has grown strong, healthy babies for me, and billions of women before me, and I’d love to read more about why. I bet could explain more about why frequent suckling creates an ideal milk than I could.

I really appreciate the owners of this blog for hosting this discussion, and I keep meaning to say that I absolutely LOVE your theme and the quotes/story that inspired it.


Right Said Red said...

Juris Mater and Melanie,

I just want to say that my babies do get cranky with too much breast time (all 3 of them have)...many times their crankiness is NOT about a need to suck, but expressing another need, such as tummy pain or exhaustion. Simply laying the baby down and allowing them to cry for a minute or two solves the problem (if they are tired obviously not if their tummy hurts)...and results in a happy, well rested baby.

Second, I produce a large amount of milk, and after my first baby I nursed her every time she fussed. The result--a puking baby. Every time she nursed, my milk let down and then she threw up. As soon as I spread out her feedings (2-2.5 hours apart) and found other ways to pacify her when she was upset between, she stopped puking, started sleeping much better, and was a generally much more pleasant baby. But this is just my experience...

In addition, I have never had a sleeping problem in my life. I have always been an excellent sleeper. Despite this fact, I have never been able to sleep well with a baby in my bed. I am awake the entire time baby nurses. In addition, I have been blessed with babies who poop after most night feedings (yeah diaper changes at 3am) and who puke if they are not properly burped. So, lying in bed nursing a baby has NEVER worked for me.

LeeAnn said...

Right Said Red,
I just wanted to say that I had similar problems with the "too much milk = vomiting baby" cycle. While sleeping with our first baby worked fine for us, our second didn't like it at all and we moved her to a crib for the sake of our sanity. After that, our third and fourth children started out in bed with us (most often sleeping with me tummy to tummy) but transitioned to crib at about the 5 month mark.

Mary Alice said...

Leann, I love your approach of observing your babies and doing what is sensible for them, I think that loveyourmother is doing this as well, as she says that she discovered EB after she was already doing it.

lym, I think that gives me great insight, you came across a scientific explanation and supporting reinforcement of what you were already doing, and what was already working for your family. When that is the case, I say, go for it! Unfortunately, many of us were introduced to EB before we were doing it, tried it and found that it did not work for us, leading to guilt, frustration and perhaps ultimately anger at the dogmatism of the movement.

My son had night terrors and we had to get him on a predictable sleep routine because he is very sensitive to sleep issues. As a result, I fell in love with the eat-wake-sleep routines that really worked for my family.

I continue to be really proud of myself for exclusively breastfeeding my twins, something I did with very little support from the medical community, and for me, in that case, a feeding routine was crucial as I was feeding them simultaneously and I had two other small children to care for.

In this journey, I notice that my parenting has evolved and now I can find a sort of middle ground that works well. My fifth child often falls asleep in the front carrier and I am not worried that this will mess up his ability to sleep well in his crib, he wakes once at night, or really in the morning, around 5 am, and when I happen to fall back asleep while nursing him then I will keep him in the bed, but if I am uncomfortable and he is sleeping I will carefully move him back to the crib. He is a long-suckling baby, especially now that he is teething, and I am letting him stay latched on long after he has stopped eating at some feedings.

So, as I have said before, with just regular breastfeeding my fertility does return sometime in the first year, but not neccessarily regularily, so I look forward to checking out the CCL's new materials and the clarifications about using NFP while breastfeeding.

Red Cardigan said...

I'm enjoying this discussion, and want to thank Red for linking to my NFP post above. (I'll be RedC here if that helps!)

My first baby, a preemie/preeclampsia birth, was so tiny that the doctors pretty much browbeat me into formula supplementation, with predictable results. With the second, I was determined to "do it right," to nurse on demand and through the night, not to supplement with bottles at all, to co-sleep (which we pretty much had to do because we hadn't bought the second crib yet) etc.

The result? Return of fertility at six months postpartum. She wasn't on a bottle or pacifier, she was with me all day, she slept with me at night, and the "spacing" amounted to almost nothing.

Like Red (we have something else in common!) my production level was high and baby would vomit copious amounts of milk after most feedings. It got to the point where I realized that it wasn't good for her to be taking in so much, all day long. (And this was after my cycles returned, so no, my decision to offer a little less didn't affect the fertility question.)

The funny thing is that with my third baby, I was hospitalized for a week when she was two months old--I couldn't nurse her for about two weeks because of the drugs in my system (had to pump and dump, which made both me and the hospital nurse really, really sad!). When I had finally cleared the medicines I started nursing her again--first one feeding, then two, and so on till my supply was back. And my cycles didn't return until seven months postpartum even with two weeks of no breastfeeding at all!

My point is that there are women who do everything "right" and don't get the "spacing" benefits--and it's *not* because they cheated or were lax or didn't try to do everything the right way. And there are other women whose fertility won't return so long as they're nursing even twice a day!

To me, the effect of EBF emphasis is to make women who don't get the "spacing" benefits feel guilty and ashamed, and on the defensive as if they must prove that they were really, really trying to do everything right--since all they hear from EBF people is that almost nobody ever has a quick return of fertility unless they're doing something "wrong." My take on it is if you are doing the best you can for your baby then you're not doing anything "wrong," period.

Anonymous said...

Time and again, my feeling from discussions like these parallels those I have about bf'ing in general. Despite the fact that the literature on the merits and natural-ness of bf'ing does not (w/rare exception) condemn women who are unable to bf'd, and does not say these women did anything "wrong" when they must formula feed or full-time express milk, women feel guilty & judged & defensive. Can we conclude that it may not always be the promoters' fault? That our passionate desire to do what's best for our children sometimes puts our mama bear hackles up & finds offense where there is none?

However, one thing I know I'm guilty of is not expressing often enough that no matter *what* the aspect of parenting we're discussing, whether it's the joys of cosleeping, bf'ing, or whatever, there are some for whom it is not beneficial and/or possible to do that particular thing in the situation in which she finds herself.

Many women who gave birth in the 60s and 70s will tell you solemnly they "just couldn't make enough milk." It's true - given the lack of information of the benefits of bf'ing & support (w/ all the wonderful tips LLL et al offer today), they couldn't. Likewise, today, b/c of a lack of information & support, many women can't cosleep/ecobf/whatever. And we can help them with that (compassionate, gentle) support.

But there are also women for whom it couldn't work at all in their situation. I must always remember that, even while knowing that it *does* work (whatever it is) and is best (b/c designed by God) for *most*.

I am confident, based on the evidence of cultures around the world and throughout history, that ecological bf'ing DOES space babies significantly. I am equally confident that we still don't know just what it takes to do that. I am also just as confident that even if we did, there are some women (a very small percentage) for whom it can't/won't/shouldn't work - and they did NOTHING "wrong" at all.

Mary Alice, I fully agree that the information given out about ecobf leads to guilt & dismay - b/c it is usually wrong. Every time I find it described as "exclusive until 6 months + night nursing" or some such, I write to ask that more be added: it's the frequency of suckling more than anything else, and while there are good reasons not to be able to be attached to a nursing baby countless times a day through toddlerhood, it is NOT ecological breastfeeding if she's not. So telling women what it is, but incorrectly, is cheating them of making an informed decision.

I hope we can learn and change much from having engaged in this fruitful discussion. I know I will. I'm gonna try to blog on it next week when I get back in town:

God bless y'all!

Sparki said...

I am proof that EBF doesn't delay fertility in all women.

I followed all those rules, not knowing they were "rules" (it's just how I felt like doing stuff) and got my period 5 weeks after my son was born. I thought something was terribly wrong with me, but no, it was just a normal period. The next cycle, I tracked and sure enough, I was already ovulating. Following all the "rules."

With my second child, conceived and born almost 3 years later, I again did all the same things and had my first period 6 weeks after her birth. Huh.

With my third child, I didn't follow all the rules, as I had an 18 month old and lots of other responsibilities that prevented me from napping with her or pacifying her at the breast -- she had such a strong sucking need, I would not have been able to do ANYTHING else, including properly caring for my toddler and preschooler, so she had a pacifier until she was 12 months old. That time, I didn't get my period back until she was 7 months old.

Eva said...

I'm one of those "very few women" for whom ecobf does not work as a natural child spacer. Among the other mothers that I know, I'm not one of a few, but one of many women whose fertility returns within 3-6 months pospartum, no matter how well they're ecologically breastfeeding. After having two kids in one year, I switched to using the Creighton Model of NFP because of it's ease of use, but also because it addressed charting while breastfeeding. I got rid of my sympto-thermal textbook because to me, all it said was, "if you just breastfeed the right way, your fertility won't return." No where does it say, "If, despite all your best efforts to breastfeed ecologically, your fertility still returns, here's what you should do...." The same was true for some highly recommended books on how to breastfeed. How can I help promote the research of some good ways to offer help and support to women who are breastfeeding but have returned to fertility? Do these things already exist and I'm just not aware of them?

Rachel said...

This comment doesn't really relate to ecological breastfeeding, but I do have a question for all of you nursing mothers! Between all of your kids, I think you must be pros by now!

My son turned a year old a few weeks ago, and I think we are both ready to start the weaning process. He has only had breastmilk up until now. We nurse three times a day, when he wakes up in the morning and then after both naps. I don't think that eliminating feedings will be a problem. I am mainly worried because I can't seem to get him to drink any cow's milk. He's an expert with a sippy cup, but as soon as he finds out there is milk in there, he refuses it. I've tried giving it to him both cold and warm.

Do any of you have suggestions? I would appreciate any advice you can offer!

Kat said...

Hi Rachel ~

When switching C to cow's milk, he had also never had anything but breastmilk. I bought vanilla-flavored rice milk from Whole Foods and mixed it with cow's milk. At first I did 3/4 rice-milk and 1/4 whole milk, and with time I decreased the ratio until he drank straight whole milk. It went surprisingly easily, and now C loves milk. Good luck!

Melanie B said...


The exact same thing happened with my daughter. She hated cows milk, wouldn't touch it.

For a while I just didn't worry. I gave her plenty of yogurt and cheese and cottage cheese, at least one serving at every meal. The pediatrician said she'd be fine with that.

Then she developed a fascination with straws (the first time she drank from a straw was an chocolate milkshake, that might have helped with the attraction!) Then, I started making her "milkshakes" with milk, vanilla yogurt and frozen strawberries. Then I discovered I could eliminate the yogurt and she was fine with just milk and strawberries.... which made me happier because there was no added sugar.

Finally-- and this was after she turned two mind you, so a whole year of not drinking milk had passed-- we discovered that she would drink milk from the bottle at McDonalds as long as there was a straw. After we'd done that a few times, one day she spontaneously asked for some milk at home and we gave it to her in the straw cup we'd been giving her "milkshakes" in. And she has been drinking two or three cups of plain, whole milk a day ever since.

So there are a few ideas: Try straw cups or cool bottles instead of his usual sippy cups. Try mixing milk with his favorite fruits in a smoothie. Most of all, supplement with other calcium-rich foods and be prepared to wait it out.

One thing I don't recommend is using chocolate syrup or some other super sweet mixer. My sister-in-law did that and her kids won't drink anything but chocolate milk.

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for this post!! I just found this blog yesterday (you blogged about my good friend Dave Chirico).

I am a Catholic mother of two (Sebastian and Gianna), and my husband and I took CCL courses. We were very disturbed by some of CCL's literature, on breastfeeding as well as on mothering in general. We are both philosophers (both huge proponents of natural law theory) and we cringed at the abuse of the term "natural" throughout CCL's literature.

We too (like many NFPers) are pretty crunchy, but found the idea and practice of ecological breastfeeding not to work for our family. Our child only slept well with a pacifier, and I personally felt that being a human pacifier was both ridiculous and demoralizing. Of course we breastfed exclusively, but we also used a pump sometimes and needed to breastfeed through a bottle at other times. I refused to feel guilty about this or worry about it. It is natural for man to incorporate technology into his life; this is as much a mark of man qua rational being as any. I am so glad to find other members of CCL who found their moralizing and unilateral appraoch to breastfeeding both off-putting and false.

btw: love this blog!

Kyra said...

I formula fed my son so you'll have to forgive my naivete regarding "breastfeeding" discussions. But I found the post really interesting and it brought up a couple questions I was wondering if you or others might be able to answer?
1) In regard to breastfeeding, does the Catholic church have a position on it? In other words, is the decision not to breastfeed considered immoral if the mother is physically able to do it?

2) Sort of the same question, but about other words does the church say anything about whether or not it's immoral to deliberately schedule a c-section if the mother is physically able to deliver naturally?

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A.Deetz said...

Perfectly said!
"natural" does not mean whatever you feel is "your style" it means as nature intended. Weather it is in step with modern life or not there is only ONE set of instinctual human behaviors for how to raise children, everything else is simply cultural/societal bias getting in the way of nature. Those bias can certainly be deeply ingrained, and can result in a woman feeling awkward or "unnatural" about something biologically normal ( for example women who are repulsed by the idea of breastfeeding their infants) but that doesn't change the biological standard of what is natural, instinctual and, yes, ideal. The "7 standard of EBF" are merely a formalized list of what our bodies are biologically designed to do. EVERY item on that list has a biological purpose and a deviation from that natural system has results that are not part of a natural outcome.

A.Deetz said...

As another poster said women have likely used carriers as long as they have had babies. If you look at the animal kingdom, animal either have young that can support their own weight while riding on mom ( think primates) mom has a built in carrying system ( kangaroos, spiders, otters etc) or the animals are born with the ability to walk on their own to keep pace with mom within days of birth ( horses, dogs, deer, cow, cats, elephants, turtles, frogs, squirrels, etc)
So in the greater scheme of things, humans who use carriers are imitating animals practices and have been doing so since the dawn of time.

Also, your argument is sonewhat perposturous, no one debated the naturalness of an action in early human history because there was only one way, the instinctual way , and everyone did it