Archive for the ‘Breastfeeding and the Church’ Category

“Hung up” on Breastfeeding?

Sunday, June 21st, 2020

I feel certain that more than one reader has wondered why we seem to be so “hung up” on breastfeeding.  If that applies to you, this might be helpful.

For years, Sheila has been getting “Google Alerts” regarding breastfeeding research.  Sometimes she makes an immediate comment in the NFPI blogs.  Next, at the start of each calendar year, she reviews all the breastfeeding research she had filed for the preceding year.

Breastfeeding’s value regarding Crohn’s disease (CD).  Friends have a granddaughter who has suffered much with it.  She is a young girl in her primary grades.  Repeated surgeries.  Slow healing, then another round.  But in God’s plan, this is not statistically inevitable.  Recent research indicates that it is a preventable disease.  In September 2017, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School reported that “The longer an infant was breastfed — especially 12 months or more — the greater the decrease that was seen in [Crohn’s] disease risk, a decline observed by comparing [the] disease in people reporting long-duration breastfeeding to those breastfed for three or six months.”  (L. Xu, P. Lochhead, et al.  “Systematic review with meta-analysis: breastfeeding and the risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 11 Sep 2017 online)

A December 2017 research report: “In third world countries where breastfeeding is an economic necessity, Crohn’s disease (CD) is literally un-documented until the imposition of a western diet. Taken in totality, the data in evidence makes the case that Crohn’s disease is a preventable disease entity.”  It concluded that current science makes it “an ethical imperative” to inform pregnant women about this information so they can “make a fully informed decision” about whether to breastfeed their babies.  (Gilles, RG Monif, “Prevention of Crohn’s Disease by Breastfeeding,” Infectious Diseases Inc GA, 5 Dec 2017)

In October 2018, researchers concluded that “early life environmental influences may offer the greatest potential to alter susceptibility to CD risk and behavior.” (Breastfeeding can limit Crohn’s progression in children, Lindoso L, et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 2018;doi:10.1038/s41395-018-0239-9)

Protection against Crohn’s disease is only one of many health benefits for babies.  In our user’s manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach, we list 21 specific diseases against which breastfeeding offers significant protection.  Research also shows at least eight other general conditions showing the benefits of breast-feeding to children even as they grow older—such as scoring higher on cognitive and IQ tests at school age.

Very importantly, mothers also gain significant benefits from breastfeedingWe would not be surprised if you know someone who has dealt with breast cancer.  Every October we see lots of pink and talk about finding the “Cure” for this disease.  The old adage applies here: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Note this quote from a 2002 study involving more than 147,000 women:

“The relative risk of breast cancer decreased by 4.3% for every twelve months of breastfeeding in addition to a decrease of 7 percent for each birth.”  Also, women in the United States could reduce their breast cancer rate by 42 percent “solely by the longer duration of breastfeeding.” (Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis…” Lancet 360, 9328, p 187-195, July 20, 2002)

Breastfeeding also reduces a mother’s risk for ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, thyroid cancer, anemia, diabetes, heart disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.  In the latter case, breastfeeding reduces the risk of a hip fracture even much later in life.  It sounds almost unbelievable, but that’s what the research tells us.  There is no drug or vaccine—cheap or costly—that can provide all these health benefits.

Breastfeeding research continuesOur NFPI weekly blogs cite 37 research studies published in 2019, up from 29 in 2018 and 26 in 2017.  We keep our readers informed.

God provides these benefits to mothers who are willing to breastfeed frequently and for at least one year, and the results are even better with two years.  For years we have focused on the mother and baby micro- environment, but we recently learned that what we teach about this micro-environment also affects the macro-environment, as follows:

On October 2, 2019, the British Medical Journal startled readers with this headline: Support for breastfeeding is an environmental imperative.  The BMJ report described the environmental hazards of manufacturing baby formulas and then described some of the health benefits of “exclusive breastfeeding” (nothing but mother’s milk) for the first six months.  In this study, researchers show that helping mothers in the UK alone to exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months “would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to reducing road traffic by 50,000 to 77,500 cars each year.” (Support for breastfeeding is an environmental imperative. Naomi Joffe, Flic Webster, and Natalie Shenker. BMJ 2019;366:l5646.doi: 10.1136/bmj.l5646)

None of this implies that a child or an adult will be unhealthy if not breastfed.  Neither Sheila or I was breastfed, and we both enjoy excellent health.  On the other hand, I probably would be dead if I had not had excellent medical care a few times.

The facts are simple.  There is no question that breastfeeding is the best form of baby care and that many of the benefits of breastfeeding are dose-related. Thus, a longer duration of breastfeeding confers more benefits.  There is also no question that Ecological Breastfeeding is the most health-supporting pattern because it maintains the milk supply.

Individual situations can be complex.  The two-income culture does not support the frequent nursing of Ecological Breastfeeding.  Within the Church, knowledge about Ecological Breastfeeding or even breastfeeding-in-general is rarely promoted, even within the NFP movement and marriage-preparation programs.

Yet, Sheila and I and a few others are convinced that everyone has a God-given right to know these things about the way God made us.

So, to tie this up, if you have ever wondered why we are “hung up” on breastfeeding and especially Ecological Breastfeeding, now you know.

Please pray that every pastor soon realizes that he should enable couples to learn these aspects of human life well before they start their marriages.

John F. Kippley


Breastfeeding and the Environment

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Have you ever thought about breastfeeding as an Environmental issue?  Sheila and I had not until we found out about an article in the October 2 issue of the British Medical Journal.  Look at this statement in an editorial about the article:

“…helping mothers in the UK alone to exclusively breastfeed their babies would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to reducing road traffic by 50,000 to 77,500 cars each year.”

And here’s the next sentence:  “The need of the hour is, therefore, to initiate government action to make breastfeeding a social commitment, all over the world, in tune with other technologies and steps taken to reduce the human-made carbon footprint in every area.”

Note that the editorial calls for government action.  What about Church action?

This article says almost nothing about all the benefits for both baby and mother.  That’s the subject of my article due to be published soon by the New Oxford Review, “What should every priest know about breastfeeding?”

Many of our blog readers are Catholic or other concerned Christians.  Perhaps you are aware that on October 6 Pope Francis started a Synod on the Amazon in which the attendees will be discussing the Amazonian environment and its effect on the world environment.  I have seen nothing to suggest that they will consider the negative environmental effects of the manufacture of baby formula.  Of course not; who has raised the question?  That’s the significance of BMJ report.

Can you do anything to help?  If you know of anyone who might be able to get this on the Synod agenda, please forward this article including the url for the BMJ to anyone you know who will be at the Synod or has some way of getting this to Pope Francis and his fellow organizers.  This is an opportunity for everybody including the Pope and Synod members to learn some important scientific facts.

In my opinion, it is imperative for every diocese to insist that all engaged couples learn about the wonderful benefits of Exclusive Breastfeeding and especially of Ecological Breastfeeding.  The difference between them is that Exclusive Breastfeeding generally covers only the first six months, but Ecological Breastfeeding can be done for over a year.  A huge additional benefit is that the frequency of suckling in Ecological Breastfeeding normally postpones the return of fertility significantly.  Our studies and those of Professor Bill Taylor show that mothers who do Ecological Breastfeeding experience a first menses, on average, between 14 and 15 months postpartum.

My wife Sheila has been promoting and teaching Ecological Breastfeeding for over 50 years.  She has done this primarily out of her concerns for the well-being of the baby and making available an abstinence-free form of natural family planning.  Her focus has been on the ecology of the mother-baby relationship.  Now it turns out that her concern for the environment of the first three years of life also has been helping the world environment.

I ask you to take this seriously even if you have huge reservations about some of the claims made by some environmentalists  Regarding the mother-baby ecology and environment of the first three years of life, there should be no doubt.  Ecological Breastfeeding is best for baby, mother, the family pocketbook, as well as for the wider environment.  The Church leadership needs to get on board with Ecological Breastfeeding.

John F. Kippley

President, Natural Family Planning International

*  *  *

The following is the editorial that Sheila received via a Google Alert re Breastfeeding.  The actual BMJ article has 27 references.

Formula costs the earth: support breastfeeding instead, says new study

At last, the pendulum has swung back to accepting breastfeeding as the norm in infant feeding. Interestingly, this has come about not because of recognition of its natural role in infant care, but because of the revelation of how much it costs the earth to produce “unnecessary formula” for babies and young children, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

Environmental impact of formula

In the current study, researchers show that switching to breastfeeding instead for the first six months of life could save anywhere from 95-153 kg CO2 equivalents for each baby. Thus, helping mothers in the UK alone to exclusively breastfeed their babies would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to reducing road traffic by 50,000 to 77,500 cars each year. The need of the hour is, therefore, to initiate government action to make breastfeeding a social commitment, all over the world, in tune with other technologies and steps taken to reduce the human-made carbon footprint in every area.

Dairy and meat production drive the major chunk of the food industry’s 30% contribution to global greenhouse gases, according to this study. Powdered cows’ milk is the foundation of most infant formulas. Cows and other livestock produce large amounts of methane, second only to the oil and gas industry. Methane is a major greenhouse gas, 30 times more effective at entrapping heat radiation from the sun within the earth’s atmosphere. Also, up to 4700 liters of water are needed to produce just a kilogram of powdered cow’s milk – an enormous water footprint.

And not just that: to make safe milk from the formula, the water used must be at least 70°C in temperature, requiring heating. This pushes up the energy use to about that amount that would be needed to charge 200 million smartphones each year. Then, the nutritional content must be boosted by adding various vegetable oils: palm, rapeseed, coconut, or sunflower oil. Fish oils for essential fatty acids, fungal and algal oils for esoteric nutrients, and minerals as well as vitamins, must all be added.

And think of the 550 million infant formula cans, or 86,000 tons of metal and 364,000 tons of paper that landed in the landfill back in 2009 and the production has increased by more than twofold since then. Not to mention the paper and plastic used and wasted at each step in the production of formula, and the need to transport it to far-flung locations.

For instance, formula is produced in only 50 plants worldwide, at the outside, churning out about 4 million tons. But this means that cows’ milk and other ingredients need to be carried to these distant sites and the final product carried back all those hundreds of thousands of miles to the end-consumer – such as China’s import of 180,000 tons of formula mostly from Europe. Additionally, the formula marketing business is worth more than £5bn. These are overlooked in almost all studies so that nobody knows how these aspects affect the environment.

A total of 50% of formula-associated greenhouse gas production is due to the manufacture of follow-on formula, which is not only useless but even a potential source of harm for the child, according to the experts who regulate the practice of infant feeding.

What we can do

This is where breastfeeding comes into its own. Cheap, safe, waste-free and extremely energy-efficient, breastfeeding also preserves the health of both mother and baby. In contrast to the damaging environmental effects of formula feeds, breastfeeding is healthier for the environment and for children, reducing healthcare resources. However, all over the world, only about four out of ten babies are fed exclusively on breast milk until they are six months old.

Country-wise, the UK presents a dismally low rate of breastfeeding and an unfortunately high per capita use of infant formula – and this is even though over 85% of women who are pregnant express their desire to breastfeed.

Why doesn’t this desire translate into action? It could be due to a lack of societal support, according to the researchers. This could include multiple areas. For instance, doctors need to change their attitudes to breastfeeding, encourage expectant women to incorporate it into their post-childbirth plans, and support mothers who find it difficult to breastfeed for various reasons.

Secondly, new mothers need time and space to breastfeed, particularly if they are working. They require better access to properly screened breast milk from healthy donor mothers, stored in a well-run milk bank if supplementation is necessary.

A network of lactational consultants should be ready to support breastfeeding. Moreover, a re-affirmation of the merits and cultural acceptability of breastfeeding must be performed, to make it easier for new mothers to take up breastfeeding. In fact, say the researchers, the UK is consulting the public to drive such an attitude conversion. Calling breastfeeding “an environmental imperative”, they call upon all those interested in improving breastfeeding rates to take advantage of this good opportunity to take action to make this a reality.

The report sums up:  We need to acknowledge that “our house is on fire” and that the next generation requires us to act quickly to reduce carbon footprints in every sphere of life. Breastfeeding is a part of this jigsaw, and urgent investment is needed across the sector.”

Journal reference:

Support for breastfeeding is an environmental imperative. Naomi Joffe, Flic Webster, and Natalie Shenker. BMJ 2019;366:l5646.doi: 10.1136/bmj.l5646.

Support for breastfeeding is an environmental imperative.

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 02 October 2019)Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5646