The Art of Natural Family Planning: Student Guide

Briefly I would like to summarize what teachings have been dropped in the recently published Student Guide edition of The Art of Natural Family Planning  by the Couple to Couple League.  We are only covering those teachings dropped that we are aware of and feel are important.
 •  The term “ecological breastfeeding” has been dropped.
 •  Breastfeeding is not taught as a form of natural child spacing.
 •  The covenant theology has been dropped.
 •  Rules C, B, and K have been dropped.  Rule R has been changed.
 •  The high-low position of the cervix is no longer taught.
 •  The internal mucus exam (IME) is no longer taught in the regular course. As CCL staffers said at the 2006 CCL Convention, this observation would not be part of the regular course but could be found at the back of the book (page 252).  It is here that CCL says one should use this exam only to determine the start of mucus, but it should not be used for determining Peak Day (their emphasis in bold).
 •  Specific immoral behaviors during the fertile time are not mentioned.
 •  The dropping of “not in the morning.”

Very importantly, CCL also dropped the requirement of amenorrhea for the exclusive breastfeeding rule given in this new manual.   This requirement is a standard part of the Lactational Amenorrhea Method and should not have been omitted.  If mothers follow the CCL rule for exclusive breastfeeding, unintended pregnancies could occur.   See also the review of the new CCL manual below from a long-time CCL member.

The IME and the H/L cervix:  The omissions of these two fertility awareness signs will be surprising to those women who have found them helpful, including the internal mucus exam for determining Peak Day.

Specific immoral behaviors that some couples engage in during the fertile time are not mentioned.   This teaching was covered by the “old” CCL and resulted in some personal conversions; some became teaching couples as a result.

The Student Guide says you can remain intimate “in non-genital ways” during marital abstinence (page 113) and gives only two examples for non-genital behaviors on page 114: “a bowl of hot soup to a spouse in bed with a cold and fever” or a “phone call before retiring when a couple is separated by distance.”    Note that the spouses in these examples are either sick or absent.  The authors avoid the issue of chaste and unchaste behaviors between at-home healthy spouses.

The “not in the morning” rule:  In the first printing of the Fourth Edition of The Art of Natural Family Planning in 1996, we modified the then-common “evenings only” Phase I rule to “not in the morning.”  We did this to accomodate those couples who may rarely see each other in the evenings because of shift work.  The basis of both rules is to postpone the marriage act early in the day during Phase One because cervical mucus may have started to flow but is not yet discernible due to sleeping horizontally all night.  After several hours of typical morning activity any mucus coming out of the cervix should be noticeable even by the external observations and even more noticeable by the internal observation.  In addition, the marriage act in the afternoon is several hours further away from ovulation than in the evening, thus making that time even less fertile.  We know of no good reason to purge that rule.  We continue to teach “not in the morning” in our online manual and in courses based on it.  

As of this writing, my husband has not reviewed the new CCL manual.  My  attention was first drawn to the breastfeeding content and to those teachings previously announced by CCL to be dropped.

Review of the Student Guide by a CCL member.                                                              

“While there are clearly many positives to the new CCL teaching materials, the changes in the student manual related to breastfeeding, particularly its natural child spacing effect, have caused concern and disappointment among some lactation professionals, who previously viewed CCL as an unusually reliable resource on breastfeeding and fertility. 
Dr. Miriam Labbok, professor at the School of Public Health of the University of North Carolina, has highlighted a significant error in CCL’s statement of the rules of the Lactational Amenorrhea Method of natural family planning, which CCL has apparently declined so far to correct.  This is so even though the specific error could easily result in unintended pregnancies, running the risk of detracting from the credibility of the entire program. 

Ecological breastfeeding, the form of breastfeeding that tends to delay the return of fertility for an average of 14 months (thereby contributing significantly to the maternal reduction in cancer risks and other maternal health benefits in addition to the obvious benefits to the child) has been completely omitted in the new manual.  This is unfortunate, as the previous Art of Natural Family Planning, along with Sheila Kippley’s book (published by the League), Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, were for many years the only resources on this form of breastfeeding and its attendant natural child spacing effects.  As a result, CCL was seen among lactation professionals and LLL Leaders, even secular ones, as a respected resource for this kind of information. 
While the new manual does speak of the benefits of breastfeeding in a general way, there is nothing especially new or unique about the presentation.  The manual will be of little interest to breastfeeding professionals in its current form. Sadly, this means that many secular breastfeeding mothers who initially sought breastfeeding and fertility information will not be further exposed to the systematic NFP information in the same volume.  Hopefully this loss in audience will be offset by the increase in Catholic engaged couples who have little or no interest in breastfeeding, or who intend from the outset to limit their family size to just one or two children, and will therefore find the materials more streamlined.
Naturally, there are many proponents of the new materials, and CCL will surely reach couples who might otherwise avoid NFP instruction.  On the other hand, there are also many individuals who found the previous materials more useful, accurate and comprehensive, if not quite so glossy and modern. 
As I understand it, postpartum fertility issues, including the effect of nursing on the return of fertility, will be taught in a separate class, presumably with a separate manual.  It can only be hoped that the LAM error in the primary text will at least be corrected in those as-yet-unpublished materials, and that reliable information on ecological breastfeeding will continue to be made available through the organization responsible for bringing this important natural effect of breastfeeding to the attention of NFP professionals in the first place.”  End of Review

For additional information on the Couple to Couple League instructional changes, go to “Categories” sidebar at the right for Covenant Theology – July 17 and hit “CCL” under Ecological Breastfeeding and under the Sympto-Thermal Method at  There are also eight blogs critiqueing Fr. Richard Hogan’s The Human Body which is published and highly promoted by CCL under Theology of the Body.

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

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