Archive for 2015

8. Natural Family Planning: Preparation for Marriage and What Couples Have a Right to Know

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

7.  The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: a natural way of spacing babies.  There are different patterns of breastfeeding, and all of them have a certain amount of value because of the inherent values of breast milk and the breastfeeding process.

With regard to breastfeeding and baby spacing, distinctions are critical.  In the Western world, common cultural breastfeeding patterns typically do NOT space babies.  Ecological breastfeeding, however, does provide a natural spacing of babies because it is a pattern of mother-baby closeness and frequent nursing.  Frequent suckling maintains the milk supply; frequent suckling also suppresses ovulation.  There is still confusion about this, and that’s why “breastfeeding and natural baby spacing” needs to be taught in terms of the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding.  These Standards are maternal behaviors that encourage frequent nursing.  As you will see in the following list, some of them are positive and some are negative.  However, all of them are contrary to common Western cultural nursing patterns.  The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding are as follows:

1.  Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life; don’t offer your baby other liquids and solids, not even water.
2.  Pacify or comfort your baby at your breasts.
3.  Don’t use bottles and don’t use 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.

All seven standards are evidence based.  That is, published research demonstrates that each of these behaviors is associated with increased nursing.

It is highly inadequate to talk only about continued or extended breastfeeding as if that would provide the spacing many couples desire.  That language takes us back to fifty years ago when an international breastfeeding organization was saying that what they called “total breastfeeding” had a baby-spacing effect.  The problem is that such language says nothing about the importance of frequency.  My wife  and other nursing mothers noticed that there was a significant variation in the duration of breastfeeding amenorrhea—the absence of periods due to breastfeeding—among mothers doing “total breastfeeding.”  Some mothers would have a first period at three or four months postpartum while others would go for a year or more, and they wondered why.  Sheila was asked to research this, so she did.

Her research was first published in a nursing journal in 1972, and it showed that American mothers who followed the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeed went an average of 14.6 months before they had their first period.  She also found that the duration of amenorrhea more or less follows a normal distribution curve with 7% having a first period by six months and 33% still in amenorrhea at 18 months.  A second, much larger study published some years later found an almost identical average of 14.5 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea among American mothers.  More recently Sheila found independent research that supports each of the Seven Standards and published this in her book, The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor.  All the standards are important.  Drop any one standard and the odds are that fertility will soon return.

There are two great advantages of Ecological Breastfeeding.  First, it maximizes the benefits of breastfeeding-in-general.  It maintains the milk supply and the baby gets all the health benefits intended by our Creator.

Second, it is a natural way of spacing babies.  Some couples use Ecological Breastfeeding as their only form of child spacing, while others will use Systematic NFP when fertility returns if they need additional spacing.  Among providentialist couples who want to let babies come as they may, it is imperative that they be well instructed about Ecological Breastfeeding because it is clearly God’s own plan for spacing babies.

John F. Kippley
To be continued next week —

7. Natural Family Planning: Preparation for Marriage and What Couples have a Right to Know

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

6.  The many health benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother.
There is no question: breast milk is the best nutrition for babies.  There is also no doubt that breast feeding is the best way for a baby to obtain this best nutrition.  Babies who are breastfed have significant health advantages.  For breastfed babies, our NFP manual lists reduced risks of contracting 21 specific diseases and conditions.   A second list describes six more general health benefits for babies and young children including a better immune system and scoring higher on cognitive and IQ tests at school age.  These lists are necessarily incomplete because every year new studies on breastfeeding are published.  Early each year my wife, Sheila, posts her review of the new studies at the NFPI blog site.

There is also no question that breastfeeding is also best for mothers.  The breastfeeding mother enjoys reduced risks of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, anemia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis (increased risk of a hip fracture).

Breastfeeding is an ecological, mutually helpful relationship.  Babies are born with weak immune systems.  If a baby gets some sort of illness or infection, it transmits it via suckling to its mother.  In turn, her intestines develop the antibodies to it, and those are then transmitted to the baby.  Her immune system makes up for the natural weakness of the baby’s immature immune system.  God really does know what He is doing.  This information is basic good-health instruction.  Every young person has a God-given right to know these gifts of God, and God’s Church should be in the forefront of teaching them in foreign missions as well as here in the States.  This can easily be taught in the right kind of course on natural family planning.

John F. Kippley
to be continued next week —

6. Natural Family Planning: Preparation for Marriage and What Couples Have A Right to Know

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

5.  All the common signs of fertility and infertility.  God made the fertility of women much more interesting than that of men.  Unless they suffer from some sort of abnormality or disease, men are constantly fertile from pubescence onward.  Women, however, have a cycle of fertility and infertility.  God made woman in such a way that she can observe certain signs that tell her when she is fertile or infertile.  Observing one or more of these signs is the essence of modern fertility awareness.

The mucus sign.  Under the influence of rising estrogen levels, the cervix starts to secrete cervical mucus several days before ovulation.  The secretion generally dries up and disappears several days after ovulation as estrogen decreases and progesterone increases.

The cervix sign.  A less obvious sign is the cervix itself.  Under the influence of those same hormones, before ovulation the cervix rises slightly, the mouth of the cervix opens and becomes softer, and then these signs reverse themselves after ovulation.

The temperature sign.  Another valuable sign is a woman’s resting body temperature that rises slightly after ovulation, reflecting the higher levels of progesterone secreted after ovulation.   It stays higher for some days and then falls as progesterone falls at the time of menstruation.

Different systems.  There are in North America at least three different systems based on just the cervical mucus sign, of which the Billings Ovulation Method is one.  In a second type of system, the temperature sign cross-checks the mucus sign, and these systems are called versions of the Sympto-Thermal Method.  A third system, the Marquette Method, uses urine and a dipstick to monitor hormonal levels as a crosscheck on the cervical mucus sign.

Equally effective?  In the mid-1970s there was considerable debate about the relative effectiveness of the Billings mucus-only system and the Sympto-Thermal system.  The Human Life Foundation, established by the U. S. Bishops in 1968, persuaded the National Institutes of Health to conduct an independent comparative study.  The results showed that the Sympto-Thermal Method had significantly higher effectiveness rates than the Billings Ovulation Method, but the debate continued.

Regardless of relative effectiveness, the temperature sign is a simple, very inexpensive, and highly accurate way of determining important information about fertility and infertility.  It can provide an extremely valuable certainty about pregnancy and gestational age.

Couples have a God-given right to make an informed choice.  They have a right to know these natural signs of fertility and their relative user-effectiveness in comparative studies.

John F. Kippley
To be continued next week —