Natural Family Planning: Church experiences with breastfeeding

A positive and two negative experiences with local parish Churches.

“Our story began in 1980 with a NFP class at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Houston Texas.  It was strengthen by a pediatrician that prayed over our little baby and assured me that if we went to the Folk Mass at St. Ann’s no one would try and take my little baby girl to the nursery and I could even nurse her comfortably at the back of the church (the church gym) where all the moms hung out with their infants and toddlers.  We weren’t even Catholic, but my body knew that I needed my baby and she needed me so I could discover the kind of mother I wanted to become.
And, fast forward, on June 1, 2019, our son and 5th child of 6, became a Roman Catholic Priest!  Thank you for helping us stay on the path towards holiness.  We want to be saints.”


From a deacon in formation who once taught eco-breastfeeding in the NFP classes with his wife.  When their NFP organization dropped the teaching of ecological breastfeeding, they stopped teaching NFP.   Here are his comments on promoting eco-breastfeeding in his Catholic community.

“I am trying to bolster my arguments that there is a positive moral obligation to breastfeed.  When I have brought up ecological breastfeeding (EB) and the moral obligation to breastfeed in the moral theology courses and the seminar on NFP, my comments were met with not only incredulity but sometimes down-right derision.
“Concerning the resistance to that we have encountered, I will give you a couple of anecdotes.  We have six children, all of whom have been raised with EB. The youngest three were born after we moved.  The other deacon candidate (I’ll call him “X”) from my parish is a providentialist, and X and his wife are adamantly against breastfeeding because in their words ‘couples are supposed to have as many children as possible to populate the Earth and give glory to God.’  They have had 7 children in 8 years and practice what I call “detachment” parenting—little mother-child bonding whatsoever and refusing to give in to the “whims” of their babies by soothing them when they cry.  Since we are both deacon candidates, we are both on the parish council.  At one of our meetings, X stated that he was disturbed that so many of the new mothers in our parish were using the cry room to breastfeed.  He felt uncomfortable being in the room with his children because he did not want to “expose” them to breastfeeding.  He also mentioned how public breastfeeding is inherently immodest, and that mothers should especially not breastfeed in Church.  He demanded that our pastor either put a stop to the breastfeeding in the cry room, or provide him with another space to be with his children when they acted up.  He suggested that my pastor wire the church hall (in the basement) with a live video feed.  My pastor (who is nationally known from EWTN) actually was open to the request and in fact made several disparaging remarks about women breastfeeding in public, including how immodest lit was, etc.  The only thing that stopped the conversation from going any further was a question that I posed to my pastor:  Did he realize that my wife had breastfed 3 children in the front pew of the Church, in front of the ambo, for the last six years?  Well, you can imagine the embarrassed expression that came over his face.  To make a long story short, the idea was dropped.
“Another anecdote involves the diaconate formation program itself.  We have been discouraged from bringing any children with us to the gatherings that the wives are required to attend.  Well, this was problematic, since our second youngest daughter was just over one year old when I was accepted for formation.  We more or less ignored the advice and brought her with us anyway, including to my entrance interview, with no problems.  However we were required to attend a retreat and were told in no uncertain terms that our little one was not allowed to come.  If we brought her, we would be told to leave.  We made the anguished decision to leave her with a babysitter for the weekend.  What a disaster!  While we had tried for 2 months to prepare her for the time apart, including trying to wean her, she was not ready to be ap-art for that long.  This led to an  angry confrontation with my director of formation.  While the program has backed down, last September my wife and 4-month old were not allowed to attend the annual retreat.  I was told by the director that some of the candidates and their wives had told him that they felt it would be too distracting to have a breastfeeding baby there.  At least my wife wasn’t required to attend, but she could have easily done so with minimal distraction.  However, I have resigned myself to the fact that the program feels that ecological breastfeeding is just too “countercultural,” even though we have proven time and again that our babies are well-behaved and quiet in public if they are with mom.
My wife wanted me in particular to make sure to thank you for all the work that you have done.  Our children have told us that they lovingly remember their nursing years.  You have truly been an inspiration to us, and your work has made a tremendously powerful and positive impact on our marriage and family life.  We are constantly sharing your books with the young couples and families in our parish, and we are both glad that you have decided to continue your work with NFPI.”

Sheila Kippley
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