Natural Family Planning with Ecological Breastfeeding

Return of Fertility for Nursing Mothers

Our research shows that women who adopt the natural mothering program will average 14.6 months without periods following childbirth. This is only an average. Some, an exceptional few, will experience a return before 6.0 months postpartum. Others will go as along as 2.5 years without menses while nursing.

Some mothers who are well informed about natural family planning and fertility awareness have found that even when periods return early, they charted many infertile cycles with continued frequent nursing. Thus for some mothers under the natural mother program, fertility is delayed, even though menstruation is occurring regularly.

These mothers who go two years without a period are on the long side of the average in our study, but they are not abnormal. Indeed, there is some indication that such extended breastfeeding amenorrhea is common in some cultures. One study among the Eskimos showed that the mothers who nursed traditionally did not conceive until twenty to thirty months after childbirth, whereas the younger mothers who adopted the American practices of supplements and bottle-feeding were conceiving within two to four months after childbirth. When I wrote the first version of this book in 1969, I felt a breastfeeding amenorrhea of twelve months was exceptionally long. Since that time I have met quite a few mothers who have experienced amenorrhea of longer duration, so that 24 to 30 months without a postpartum period sounds very normal.  Three mothers reported to me in a survey that they went 41 and 42 months postpartum without any menstruation.

It is generally thought that the saying that a woman cannot get pregnancy while nursing is an old wives’ tale or superstition. Doctors commonly express this view. I agree that a woman can get pregnant while nursing. However, this fact does not present the whole story. With the typical American pattern of restricted nursing, fertility returns quite quickly—frequently just as quickly as for the non-nursing mother. On the other hand, with proper knowledge and support, with the adoption of the natural mothering program, the average nursing mother will experience an extended period of infertility. If no form of birth regulation is used except ecological breastfeeding, babies on the average will be born about two to three years apart.  (Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, 2008, page 63-64)

Sheila Kippley

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