Archive for 2007

Natural Family Planning: More on CCL’s Student Guide

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

In my December 2nd blog, I said my next blog would review significant omissions in the  Student Guide recently published by the Couple to Couple League.  Then, however, we received a review from a disappointed CCL teacher that we think is important, so it appears below.  My comments will follow on the 16th.  The review follows between the two lines below.

I have a few comments about the blog posts on from Nov 18, 2007 and Dec 2, 2007 regarding what CCL’s new Student Guide says about breastfeeding infertility.

After having reviewed the new Student Guide on the topic of breastfeeding and breastfeeding infertility, my overall impression is that CCL’s emphasis on this topic is very much reduced compared to the old class series. The new material is also greatly reduced in scope and detail compared to the old class series. It seems to me that CCL is generally trying to say a few positive things about breastfeeding and mention that there is such a thing as natural breastfeeding infertility which is associated with more full forms of breastfeeding. And that’s it! They include just a few general comments, nothing more.

That is the extent of what I see presented. In my opinion they are definitely not trying to teach how to achieve extended infertility as a natural side effect of some form of breastfeeding. They do not present their definitions of “exclusive breastfeeding” as a rule. In other parts of the book where they present their new STM, they explicitly highlight when something is a rule. So from this standpoint I can see why the current CCL management does not feel that a correction sheet for the Student Guide is necessary. Since the entire intent of their breastfeeding material is different than the old class series in not trying to teach couples to achieve extended breastfeeding infertility, I can understand that they aren’t going to put in a corrections sheet.

I think the fundamental criticism of CCL’s current presentation of the topic of breastfeeding is precisely its reduced emphasis, scope and detail and not anything specific of how they present it. The current presentation of the material is weak and significantly watered down.

This is the same criticism I have about the morality component of the new Student Guide. It’s weak and watered down to a great degree. What it does include is this mushy “Theology of the Body” material that comes across as mostly happy talk about how the Catholic Church is really positive about our sexuality. I could hardly believe how the Student Guide practically disparages both Humanae Vitae and St. Thomas Aquinas in one short section. And CCL really believes that a nebulous presentation of the Theology of the Body is going to make a difference? It strikes me as incredible naiveté. They have no proof whatsoever that their new presentation of the material will be more effective. Also, my impression is that the new material on morality will not resonate with non-Catholics as much, since it is so much focused only on the teaching of Pope John Paul II.

It’s for these reasons that my wife and I are planning not to recertify with CCL. We are an NFP teaching couple because we wanted to help couples live chaste and holy marriages, not just to teach STM. I’m not saying that the new Student Guide and class series are “just about teaching STM only”, but the morality and breastfeeding emphases are so much reduced that we just don’t feel it’s worth our time to teach NFP in this way.

Also, congratulations on the first NFPI class. Glad to hear it went so well!!
                                                                                                   –A CCL Teacher
This teacher’s speculation may be correct; in the absence of any response from CCL, we have no way of knowing.  Regardless, serious mistakes need to be corrected promptly.  The fact remains that the new CCL manual  describes exclusive breastfeeding in such a way as give the impression that it is 97% effective in postponing pregnancy in the first six months without the all-important qualifier that this applies only to mothers who have not yet menstruated.  Professionals and organizations worldwide promote this rule including its qualifier. 

We also believe that “exclusive” breastfeeding should be better defined.  CCL cited the World Health Organization when discussing this term, “exclusive breastfeeding,” yet CCL failed to add the clear definition used by WHO:  “Exclusive breastfeeding–that is the infant only receives breastmilk without any additional food or drink, not even water” (Nutrition: Infant and Young Child, WHO).

The teacher who shared his thoughts in the above email is interested in the thoughts or comments from others on these topics related to the new CCL manual.    You can comment here; or if you want to remain anonymous, you can send your comment to

Next week:  What CCL is no longer teaching? 

Sheila Kippley
NFP International
Author: Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood (Sophia) and Natural Family Planning: The Question-Answer Book (e-book at this website)

Natural Family Planning: Good News and Horrible News

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

GOOD NEWS:  The First NFPI Course has begun.
The good news is that the first NFPI class took place November 28 in Denver with the approval of the archdiocese.  We thank K.L. and Ann Berry for their enthusiasm in preparing for their first NFPI class.  They developed the PowerPoint presentation and the teaching notes for that first class at first-rate speed and kept us posted on their progress.  We are grateful for their enthusiasm and for their excellent work in preparing the visuals and notes for teaching the class.   How did their #1 meeting go?  The class went very well and the attendees applauded at the end.

THE TROUBLING NEWS:  CCL has yet to make a corrections sheet for an error in their new manual, The Art of Natural Family Planning: Student Guide, an error that could cause an unintended pregnancy.    In two places of the new CCL Student Guide, exclusive breastfeeding is said to be highly effective in avoiding pregnancy, but nowhere does it mention a necessary requirement for such effectiveness: the absence of menstruation.  Here is what the new CCL manual says:
1) “Some studies show that 97% of mothers who exclusively breastfeed can be assured of postpartum infertility for at least six months” (page 161).
2) “Exclusive breastfeeding: Generally, highly infertile during the first six months postpartum” (Reference guide, page 254; italics in the original).

Three bloggers (I was one of them) brought this error to the attention of others on Sunday, November 18.   One of the blogs came from Miriam Labbok, a doctor involved with many of the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) studies.   LAM was the method whose results CCL erroneously attempted to describe.  Dr. Labbok’s blog on this issue can be viewed at .

Another area that needs improving in the new CCL manual is the definition of “exclusive breastfeeding” on page 154.  Nowhere in that definition does it state “only mother’s milk.”  That has to be made clear to nursing mothers.  Here is the UNICEF definition:  “Babies should be exclusively breastfed—meaning that they receive nothing but breastmilk, not even water—for about the first six months of life” (Breastfeeding: Foundation for a Healthy Future, p. 4).  

The new CCL Student Guide also fails to mention those behaviors that help a breastfeeding mother remain in amenorrhea for those first six months while exclusively breastfeeding.

At least these three areas need improvement in the new CCL manual in my estimation: the clarification of breastfeeding infertility by the exclusive breastfeeding rule or by the Lactational Amenorrhea Method on pages 161 and 254 and the definition of “exclusive breastfeeding” on page 154.

Responsible management?  CCL speaks frequently about responsible parenthood, and that’s why CCL should insert a corrections sheet into their new manual.  Is this responsible on their part?  Do they wish unexpected parenthood on a mother with a newborn already in her arms?   We received a copy of the Student Guide on November 6th.   I noticed the mistake immediately and wrote the CCL Executive Director, Andy Alderson, on November 7th. 
Here was my email to Andy that day:

Dear Andy,
    Congratulations on the new Student Guide.
    On page 161, it states: “Some studies show that 97% of mothers who exclusively breastfeed can be assured of postpartum infertilitry for at least six months.”
    Could you email me the studies or cite the references for me?  I have asked some breastfeeding research experts about this statement and I cannot come up with any of the research.
    Thanking you for your help,
    Sheila Kippley

On November 14, I received the following email from Andy Alderson:  “Sorry for the delayed response.  While I understand your request, I’ve read your ongoing blogs against CCL.  I don’t think it is productive for the League to get into communications with you at this time.” 

After the November 18th blogs, we waited to allow time for CCL to make the correction, but we were saddened to learn from several sources that CCL has not taken the time to insert a corrections sheet into their new manuals.

John calls Andy at the CCL office to express his concern. 
On November 29, John called Andy at the CCL office.  John mentioned to Andy that breastfeeding advocates were upset about the error and that a corrections sheet needs to be inserted into each book.  Andy said he would take such opinions under advisement but did not say anything to confirm John’s sense of urgency that an error sheet needs to be printed and inserted pronto.  Andy said he did not have time to write such a sheet; John offered to write it but Andy declined the offer.  Andy said that the corrections sheet is not at the top of his priorities.  John’s explanation that this mistake is something that can get mothers unexpectedly pregnant elicited only Andy’s response that he will consider the issue.  John emailed the members of Board of Directors for whom he had addresses on November 30 to express his concern.

On November 30, toward the end of the day, CCL sent a 6-page email newsletter to CCL teachers and promoters.  NOTHING was said about the serious mistake in the new CCL manual.  I find this astounding and am most disappointed that such an important error has not been corrected.   

PS:  Donations are still needed and welcome for our apostolate.  Our goal is to provide more teaching services and support for NFP and Church teaching online.  We thank those who did respond.  Please mail your gift to:  NFPI, P.O. Box 11216; Cincinnati, Ohio 45211.  Please keep us in mind this Advent season. 

Next week:  What is  CCL  no longer teaching?

Sheila Kippley
NFP International
Author: Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood and Natural Family Planning: The Question-Answer Book (e-book at this website)

Natural family planning: A special thanks to Konald A. Prem, M.D.

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

’Tis the season to be thankful.  In keeping with the season, we would like to give special thanks to Dr. Konald A. Prem.            

Our first knowledge of natural family planning came from a poor understanding of the rhythm method.  As a high-school student, I played tennis with a woman in her late twenties who was getting married in the Catholic Church.  She was informed by the priest that she and her future husband could use the rhythm method only if they had a serious reason to do so, that this method involved abstaining about a week in the middle of the cycle and, if you had a really serious to avoid pregnancy, you abstained for two weeks in the middle of the cycle.  That was not the rhythm method and I hope no one follows such advice today.  That was also John’s understanding of the rhythm method when we entered into marriage: that if you had a sufficiently serious reason for postponing pregnancy, you abstained a few days before and after Day 14 of the cycle.   After all, everyone ovulated around Day 14, or so it was commonly thought by those who thought they knew.  Again this knowledge was incorrect.  We learned the rhythm method correctly some years later.           

Our first accurate understanding of systematic natural family planning came from an article written by Dr. Konald Prem in a 1968 issue of Child & Family magazine.  Soon after reading that article we moved to Salina, Kansas where we publicized a meeting on natural family planning.  The only ones at that meeting who were enthusiastic about starting a group were La Leche League friends who knew nothing about systematic NFP.               

Two years later we moved to the Twin Cities where Dr. Prem lived.  I noticed that both he and I were scheduled to be on the same panel at the La Leche League Convention in the summer of 1971.  We called him and scheduled a meeting to discuss what each would cover on the topic of breastfeeding infertility at the upcoming convention.  But our primary purpose was to ask him about starting an organization to teach natural family planning to couples.             

I had been closely associated with La Leche League (LLL).  I had seen how the teaching of successful breastfeeding was spread by one ordinary mother teaching other mothers.  I had started the first LLL group in Saskatchewan.  Why couldn’t the same approach be applied to the teaching of natural family planning by ordinary couples?  Dr. Prem was 100% supportive of this idea. In fact, he was enthusiastic.  I remember him saying that he had been involved with other approaches through clinics and hospitals and these approaches eventually failed.             

We began our first class at St. Odilia’s school in the St. Paul suburbs, a few blocks from our apartment, in the fall of 1971.  We started with four meetings and the content of those meetings was very similar to what many couples learned through the years through the Couple to Couple League.  To this program John brought the covenant theology, I brought the eco-breastfeeding, and Dr. Prem brought systematic natural family planning.             

Dr. Prem also went beyond the call of duty by coming to every class that first year. Besides helping with the teaching, he reviewed the couples’ charts after class.  John especially used Dr. Prem’s knowledge to learn the method well.  John would say to Dr. Prem, “How did you know that couple was in Phase III tonight?”   I remember Dr. Prem’s response to a couple who doubted they were in Phase III: he assured them they were in Phase III and said that if they had a baby, he would deliver it without charging.             

For those interested in what materials we used to teach the classes, the visuals were us, a blackboard, and a single-page handout that the couples could take home with them.    Dr. Prem used a slide program with charts.  The mimeographed manual did not develop until after we moved to Cincinnati.  The couples learned well.           

A friend recently stated that she couldn’t understand all the trouble the current CCL is going through to make all its changes.  As she said, “It’s so simple.  Why change it?”  It was simple then and that is why couples learned it well.           

My thanks go to Dr. Konald Prem for encouraging us to start a national natural family planning organization and for his support of our teaching on the theology and the breastfeeding.             

Most do not know that Dr. Prem did research on the effectiveness of breastfeeding as a baby-spacer, but never published it.  I recently found a copy of his paper, and at present he is reviewing it.  We plan to eventually place it at our website.  We are also considering placing his Child & Family article at our website.             

John and I thank him for his attendance at those first NFP meetings and for his review of each new edition of the manual that we published.  There were others who helped by reviewing our work and we appreciate their help also.  We had a policy of always sending out the manual to various experts and teachers before publication, another effort at quality control.  Dr. Prem was always generous in giving of his time for this review work.           

Some may have wondered why we call our rules the Kippley-Prem rules in our teachings and at our website.  After reading this blog, I think you can begin to appreciate what Dr. Prem brought to the Couple to Couple League and now to Natural Family Planning International.             

Without his enthusiastic support of “let’s do it,” we probably would have never started CCL or NFPI.  Because of this doctor, about a half million couples have learned natural family planning, have enjoyed natural child spacing through breastfeeding, and have deepened their faith and their marriage.  Thank you, Dr. Prem.           

This January (2008) John and I will teach our first NFP classes for NFP International.  We will again start with simple visuals or power point.  We will be thinking of Dr. Prem as we begin again.               

Interestingly, Dr. Prem and my husband share the same birthday, November 6th,   a time of the year when they make it a point to talk to each other.  Dr. Prem is now 87 years old.  May God bless him and his wife abundantly at this time in their lives.  And thanks, Dr. Prem, for your role in the natural family planning movement and in our lives and those of many others.  

 Sheila Kippley
NFP International
Author: Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood (Sophia)
        Natural Family Planning:The Question-Answer Book (e-book
               at this website)