Natural Family Planning: A Scientist’s Work on Breastfeeding

H.William Taylor, PhD, was a regional field director in the West for our NFP organization in the 1970s.  Later he published several research papers concerning breastfeeding patterns and amenorrhea.  His wife Donna was also involved in the research.

His dissertation in 1989 was titled Effect of Nursing Pattern on Postpartum Anovulatory Interval. (University of California, Davis)  He concluded that supplementation, scheduling the breastfeeding and episodes of mother-baby separation all “increase the mother’s chance of ovulating after childbirth.”  “These mothering practices limit the amount of physical contact at the breast, thereby allowing the mother’s reproductive system to escape from the normal inhibitory effect of natural, unsupplemented breastfeeding” (p.126).

Following are some of Dr. Taylor’s other statements about breastfeeding and its effect upon the reproductive system.

“Nighttime nursing may prove to be more critical than daytime nursing for the maintenance of the postpartum anovulatory state” (p. 130).     Mothers who get up at night to nurse and then put the baby in a crib “may be behaving so as to hasten the return of her ovulatory cycles” (p.7).

The frequency of nursing is important for natural amenorrhea.  “When matched for daily nursing duration, mothers with an intermittent (short, frequent bouts) nursing pattern were found to experience an anovulatory interval more extended than that experienced by mothers with a more dosed (lengthy, infrequent bouts) nursing pattern.” (p. 120).

Dr. Taylor published his research on the breastfeeding and amenorrhea several times.  About one study he wrote me saying,  “When we eliminated [from our statistics] mothers who returned to work outside the home, did not let their baby sleep with them at night, introduced solids before six months and nursed less than a median of 9 times a day in the first three months, we ended up with a group that might be said to follow the natural mothering norm.  For these 55 mothers the median wait to their first menses was 15.9 months” (personal letter, 1998).

Mothers in this study found that when they breastfed for the baby they gained “the side benefit of freedom from menstruation” (p.47).

Dr. Taylor emphasizes that “the fertility-suppression of lactation may be explained by the pattern of nursing when considered within the context of a complex of mothering behaviors” (p. 95).

Those mothering behaviors are also part of the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding.  Each Standard is associated with a maternal behavior that keeps the baby close to the mother and thus facilitates frequent baby-initiated suckling.  Therefore, these Standards are associated with natural infertility after childbirth.  The Standards also provide optimal health benefits to both mother and baby.

Sheila Kippley
The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding (What every woman needs to know about breastfeeding and spacing babies.)

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