Natural Family Planning and Ecological Breastfeeding

June 19th, 2016

Ecological Breastfeeding.   It is common in the NFP movement these days to talk about evidence-based claims or statements. This certainly applies to the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding.

When Sheila was pregnant with our first baby born in mid-1964, she took the advice of her childbirth instructor and attended La Leche League classes, later becoming a Leader. At each meeting, the Leader would review the LLL talking points about breastfeeding including the spacing benefits of “total” breastfeeding, the term then used for “exclusive” breastfeeding. The mothers noticed the wide variation in the duration of breastfeeding amenorrhea among the various mothers they counseled, and one of the Leaders asked Sheila to research it. The results of her research were first published in the JOGNN in 1972. See . Among mothers who nursed their babies according to the Seven Standards, the average duration of amenorrhea was 14.6 months. In 1989 we repeated the study with a much larger sample and found an average duration of 14.5 months ( ). A natural family planning teacher, H. William Taylor, did his doctoral dissertation on ecological breastfeeding and then did several other published studies, finding similar or identical results.   Most recently, Sheila published the research of others for each of the Standards in her book, The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor.   There is no question: the duration claims of Ecological Breastfeeding according to the Seven Standards are evidence-based.

I enjoy reading the results of other researchers, but there is something qualitatively different about Sheila’s research. I think she was the first mom-researcher. She had the distinct advantage of associating with other nursing moms. They could discuss the various facets of baby care and speculate whether this or that factor might influence the duration of breastfeeding amenorrhea. Sheila was able to incorporate these factors into her survey, and it’s from those completed surveys that we found the above results. I am not aware of anyone who has challenged them. NFP teachers Bill and Donna Taylor were enthusiastic about ecological breastfeeding, and his research has supported both of our studies.

John F. Kippley


Natural Family Planning and the Marriage Covenant

June 12th, 2016

The Covenant Theology of Marriage.  In the fall of 1981, I gave a copy of the revised title, Birth Control and the Marriage Covenant, to Pope John Paul II and to others in the Vatican, including then-Monsignor Carlo Caffara at the John Paul II Institute. Msgr. Caffara and I discussed the covenant theology, and he seemed genuinely interested.

Sometime in the mid-Eighties, the Hahns read the book and credit it for helping them to accept Catholic teaching on birth control when they were still Protestants. It was the concept of the renewal of the marriage covenant and its connection with the reception of Holy Communion that was decisive for Scott; I don’t know about Kimberly, but she read the book and accepted the teaching before he did.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II incorporated the renewal of the marriage covenant concept into his Letter to Families. “In the conjugal act, husband and wife are called to confirm in a responsible way the mutual gift of self which they have made to each other in the marriage covenant” (n. 12, para. 12, his emphasis). That concept was not in his Theology of the Body concluded ten years previously.

Christopher West expounds considerably on the Theology of the Body (TOB). When we heard his lectures here in Cincinnati some years ago, he concluded his replies to questions by saying, “Just remember, the marriage act ought to be a renewal of your wedding vows.” Again, the “renewal of the marriage vows or marriage covenant” does not appear in the text of Pope John Paul II in the TOB. Despite that, West has found that this very brief statement of the covenant theology of the marriage act is an excellent way to summarize the teaching of the TOB.

For all of the above reasons, I think the covenant theology of the marriage act is helpful and should not be discarded. I think it ought to be included in every NFP program as well as in other marriage classes.

Next week: Ecological Breastfeeding

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant



Natural Family Planning and the Covenant Theology

June 5th, 2016

The covenant theology of the marriage act. The covenant theology of the marriage act can be stated in 17 words. “Sexual intercourse is intended by God to be at least implicitly a renewal of the marriage covenant.”

Why do we teach this? It’s short enough that almost everyone can remember it. It lends itself to explaining and upholding much of the Judeo-Christian Tradition on love, marriage and sexuality. Upon learning it, many of our contemporaries say, “That makes sense. Why haven’t I heard that before?” It’s simple and eminently understandable.

Where did we get this idea? I think the idea is too good to have come just from my imagination. I am too ordinary and spiritually grubby to think that idea is anything but a gift of the Holy Spirit. During the mid-Sixties, I was a parish lay evangelist in Santa Clara CA conducting an Inquiry Forum in the years before the RCIA program. I was using the vomitorium analogy to explain the evil of contraception, but the liberals were trashing that idea. I wasn’t looking for an argument with them; I was simply trying to uphold the received teaching, so I looked for something else. Somehow, I don’t really know how, I started using the built-in meaning of the marriage act.

One Saturday morning early in 1966 I listened to Michael Novak give a talk at a parish in Palo Alto. It seemed to me that he was undermining the received teaching, and I came home truly angry in the good sense of that term. The anger gave me the energy to write “Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital” in the rest of that weekend. It was published in Ave Maria magazine on February 25, 1967, seventeen months to the day before Humanae Vitae.

Immediately after Humanae Vitae, I wrote a book to uphold its teaching. When Covenant, Christ and Contraception was published in the spring of 1970, I was suddenly hit by the memory of the words of Jesus to the teachers of the Law in Luke 11:46. “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” That laid a guilt trip on me: I had done my best to affirm what many were calling a burden so I had to do what I could to provide practical help to live out the teaching of Humanae Vitae. That led my wife and me to teach natural family planning in the fall of 1971 as part of my parish lay-evangelism efforts.

Next week: The views of others on the marriage covenant

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant