Natural Family Planning: Breastfeeding Spaces Babies

The mother who sleeps with her baby during the night is involved in a pattern of unrestricted breastfeeding.  By taking care of her baby’s needs for closeness, cuddling, and skin contact during the night, she provides the opportunity for her baby to nurse as often as he pleases.

Dr. Peter Howie, working with a research team in Edinburgh, Scotland, found that those nursing mothers who ovulated earlier nursed the least amount during the day, reduced the nursing times the fastest, introduced other foods quickly, and gave up the night feedings rapidly.  On the other hand, the nursing mothers who ovulated later continued to give night feedings, nursed more often, introduced other foods slowly, and reduced their nursing times gradually.

Martha and Dr. Bill Sears in their recent work, The Breastfeeding Book, say: “Sleep with your baby for night feedings.  Extended breastfeeding infertility is associated with night feedings.” (page 73) They promote the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding in their new book.

Another couple, Donna and Dr. Bill Taylor were involved in several scientific publications in the 1990s dealing with ecological breastfeeding and have shown the importance of night feedings for extended breastfeeding infertility.  “Stated positively, when babies (1) sleep with the mother, (2) are held close to the mother’s body, and (3) accompany her everywhere, the resulting easy access to the breast may be a causative factor in the ecology of breast-feeding’s contraceptive effect.” (Journal of Biosocial Science, 1999)

Witnesses below:

  • Mother A had three babies who did not use pacifiers. The mother nursed exclusively during the early months and continued to nurse for one year. She sat up at night to nurse her babies and then placed them in a crib.  By the fifth to sixth month postpartum, all three babies were sleeping through the night and her periods returned at 7 or 8 months after childbirth with each baby.  With baby #4, she read my book on natural child spacing, bought a king-size bed and slept with her baby.  She had her first period at 20 months postpartum while breastfeeding.  Bedsharing made the difference.
  • Mother B nursed her first baby who slept through the night. Her menstruation returned at 4 months postpartum. With baby #2, she slept with her baby and nursed throughout the night.  She was still without any menstrual cycles at 21 months postpartum.
  • Mother C weaned her earlier children between 3 to 7 months postpartum and her fertility soon returned. She decided to do ecological breastfeeding and sleep with her next baby. With eco-breastfeeding, her periods returned when her baby was 26 months old.
  • Mother D had a very interesting situation with bedsharing. Her periods returned at 2 months after childbirth and occurred on a regular basis while breastfeeding her second baby. Her baby slept in another room, but that situation changed when her husband went on a business trip for three months.  While he was gone, she brought her baby (now about 8 months old) and another child to bed with her.  The baby nursed during the night and she had no menstruation for three months.  Her husband returned home, the children left her bed, and she had some spotting the next month and observed the signs of returning fertility.

The Benefits
Breastfeeding protects against SIDS.  In addition, unexplained infant death “is virtually unknown across 95% of the world.”  In one study researchers found “a third of white babies were put to sleep alone, compared with only one in 25 Asian babies.”  The Asians had a low cot death while Britain had between 400-500 cot deaths a year.  SIDS was “virtually unheard of in India.”   In Hong Kong “only about two babies a year died from cot death in the colony which had an annual birth rate of 70,000.  The cot death rate is 23 times lower than UK’s.”  In this study “it’s apparent that bed-sharing here is common while the cot death rate is low.” (“Bed-sharing may cut cot deaths,” The Sunday Times, October 8, 1995)

In my book, The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, there are another 20 benefits listed for the practice of bed-sharing between mother and baby besides providing the mother with a continuous ample milk supply and extended breastfeeding amenorrhea.
Sheila Kippley
The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding
Safe bed-sharing guidelines are available at the above book and on the home page of NFPI, links.





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