More Blessing than Burden

In my previous blog, I commented on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to accept homosexual sodomy as marriage. I pointed out that this follows logically and sociologically from the wide cultural and legal acceptance of heterosexual sodomy as marriage, understanding that all unnatural forms of birth control are essentially forms of sodomy. I noted that the big question of the day is this: What can leaders of the Catholic Church in the United States of America do about this? I think certain things are obvious.

First, Catholic bishops and priests need to revisit Humanae Vitae. They need to see that this encyclical is far more of a blessing than a burden. They need to preach and teach what Jesus taught—that his burden is light and that his yoke is sweet.

Perhaps they would also do well to revisit the arguments. I have tried to help by providing an analysis of the Birth Control Commission majority and minority reports in Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality. It is clear that the arguments for contraception cannot say a logical NO to any mutually acceptable sexual behaviors. Revisionist theologian Michael Valente made it strikingly clear that the rejection of Humanae Vitae logically entailed the rejection of the entire natural law theory on which he said it was based. He used the example of bestiality to make his point. Yes, according to the principles of dissent, he and his fellow revisionists could not say a firm NO even to bestiality. In an article in the liberal Theological Studies, I showed that the decision-making principles of arch-dissenter Fr. Charles Curran cannot say NO even to spouse swapping.

Second, Catholic bishops and priests need to get over their fear of requiring something that is for the good of the persons involved. The Bishops’ Committee on Pastoral Research and Practice had it right in 1989 when it urged that every engaged couple should be required to attend a full course on natural family planning. Current experience shows that almost no engaged couples take a course in natural family planning unless they are required to do so. Ironically, they have had to take required courses all their lives, but as they approach one of the most important things they will ever do, they are not required to take the one course that addresses the one issue that is the biggest issue in the Church today. Couples will take an NFP course if required. As Church required, such a course ought to be teaching much more than just fertility awareness. Well informed priests can do much to help couples understand that the teachings of the Church about love, marriage and sexuality are far more of a blessing than a burden.

Third, the contents of a required NFP course need to be adequate for the task at hand, and that means that it will be a holistic approach that is more than just teaching fertility awareness.

  • The course must be a New Evangelization effort. Young people need to learn that Jesus truly is the Author of all the teachings of the Church including those dealing with love, marriage, and sexuality. The blessings of increased discipleship far outweigh any effort put into helping the couples understand some of these basic facts of Christianity.
  • The course must include specific teaching against immoral sexual behaviors. Silence or ambiguous statements to avoid genital contact during the fertile time are easily interpreted in an exclusively pregnancy-avoiding way. Couples have told us how their interpretations of that terminology led them to adopt immoral practices. As a result some or many poorly instructed “NFP couples” practice periodic contraception instead of periodic chaste abstinence. Catholic moral teaching also includes the call to generosity in having children. Systematic NFP is not “Catholic birth control.”
  • The course must teach the abstinence-free form of natural spacing with breastfeeding. That means teaching the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding. To the extent that couples adopt this form of natural baby spacing, both babies and mothers will be healthier. The blessings are far greater than the “burden” of frequent nursing.
  • The course must teach a supporting theology that is easy to understand. We have found that the renewal-of-the-marriage-covenant theology is easily grasped and almost immediately makes good sense to people of open hearts and goodwill. St. John Paul II used this concept in his Letter to Families, but it is still unknown by many. Regarding hearts, a priest can do much to help open hearts if he takes the time to help couples appreciate the love that Jesus has for us and our need to show our gratitude by following his commandments of love. Again, the blessings of this understanding of the meaning of Christian love and marriage far outweigh the very slight burden of teaching.
  • The course ought to teach all the common signs of fertility and infertility. Comparative studies have shown that systems that use crosschecking signs have a higher user-effectiveness than those that focus just on cervical mucus. Couples have a God-given right to know about the cross-checking signs. That gives them the freedom to make an informed choice about which fertility sign or combination of signs they will use. I do not care what system they actually use, but I think it is imperative that they should have the knowledge-based freedom to choose for themselves. The blessing of having this legitimate freedom of choice far outweighs the slightly greater effort to teach more than one sign.
  • The course ought to be available via a Home Study taken at the couples’ own convenience and speed. The Home Study Course offered by NFP International is being used very successfully by couples all over the States.
  • The course ought to be affordable. The NFPI Home Study Course and its classroom course are both available for a requested donation of only $70.00. Very low cost and yet the most complete.

Bishops and priests who make use of the resources offered by NFP International will be gratified by the results. Priests and bishops alike would benefit by taking the course themselves. They would learn the scientific bases for Ecological Breastfeeding and a cross-checking system, and, best of all, they would also see how all of the above elements are easily integrated into a teaching program. They will see that the NFPI effort is a working example of lay evangelization and accompanying practical help. They will receive expressions of gratitude for having been required to take the course as preparation for Christian marriage.

John F. Kippley, July 2, 2015 for posting on July 8.


NFP International Needs Help

Natural Family Planning International, Inc.
P. O. Box 861 • Steubenville OH 43952 USA

Third week of Advent, 2014

 There’s no question: NFP International needs help. So if you think that NFP International is an organization that uniquely serves the Church and anyone who is interested, please read on….

First, in NFP International we are not just teaching cheap and natural birth control. Not at all. We are unique in teaching ecological breastfeeding, the kind of breastfeeding that maximizes all the dose-related benefits of breastfeeding and also provides, on average, 14 to 15 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea and infertility. Couples who adopt ecological breastfeeding will probably save at least $1,000 with each baby by not using formula and special baby foods, and their babies will most likely experience better health.

Second, we teach all the common signs of fertility and infertility so that user couples can decide which ones they want to use. We teach all of this in the context of the Catholic Tradition of Christian discipleship. We can’t force this on anyone, but we think it’s important to see the meaning that God has built into the marriage act—that it ought to be a renewal of your marriage covenant, and we are unique in that teaching. We may also be unique in allowing our manual to be downloaded for free.

Considering the contemporary culture, we think our effort to place the whole issue of birth control and sexuality in the context of religion and morality is very important for the welfare of Western culture. We think President George Washington was correct when he said in his 1796 Farewell Address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

 So I ask for your support. Please pray for the advancement of the NFPI mission. This effort is an apostolate, and it needs your prayers.

Please help us financially. Please realize that nothing is really cost-free. The only way we can keep offering free downloads for the poor is if the non-poor contribute to that effort. So, if you appreciate what NFP International is doing, please help us. We would not be asking for this support if we did not really need it. Anything and everything helps. No gift is too small. Gifts of $50 and $100 and $500 are very helpful, but so are gifts of $25 and $10 as well. Every gift, even $5, carries the message, “Carry on!”

To support NFPI, please click here or go to and click on the PLEASE DONATE button in the left-hand column. Or send a check payable to NFPI to the address at the top of this appeal.

May God bless you and your loved ones in a special way this Christmas season,

John F. Kippley

NFP International is a 501-c-3 not-for-profit organization. All gifts are tax deductible.

Did Bottle-feeding Increase the Use of Contraception?

Early this summer, a physician who is knowledgeable about natural family planning and its statistics asked this question: Is there any study that shows a connection between bottle-feeding and the acceptance of contraception?

The short answer is that Sheila and I are not aware of any study that attempted to measure that relationship.

A more helpful answer, however, is found in the work of Dr. Otto Schaefer, a physician who worked among the Canadian Eskimos in the 1950s. He went there as an advocate of formulas and bottle-feeding. What he experienced led him to become a champion of the pattern of nursing that we call ecological breastfeeding.   He saw that the birth interval in this culture before the arrival of bottle-feeding was three to four years. With the advent of the trading post and formula and bottles, the babies were coming every year, and the mothers were complaining. In short, he witnessed a very clear example of hyper-fertility caused by the loss of breastfeeding.

This was very similar to the hyper-fertility of the 1950s here in the States. The WWII vets had returned and many wanted nothing more than to get a job, get married and have children. They were soon joined by the veterans of the Korean War (1950-1953). Prosperity was in the air. If formula-feeding made child-rearing much more expensive, so what? And they couldn’t wait to use jar after jar of Gerber-type baby food.

The result among many of these young families was the hyper-fertility of a baby every year. Breastfeeding was so rare in the United States in the Fifties that no one seemed to know that having a baby every year was highly unusual in breastfeeding cultures.

Nor did most married couples of the Fifties and Sixties know much about the first form of systematic natural family planning—Calendar Rhythm. Our landlord told us that he and his wife had practiced the Ogino-Knaus rhythm—they called it the O-K method—during the 1930s with a hundred percent success and three children. But that knowledge seemed to get lost in the postwar years. A great book on Catholic marriage published about 1956 referred to Calendar Rhythm, but instead of giving the formula, the author told couples to see their priest, assuming he would know.

The result was hyper-fertility. Contraception became widely practiced among those who had no moral/religious objections to it, and faithful Catholics and other Christians had large families. But even among the faithful, there were some real questions. A mother of seven who had married right after college was experiencing obvious varicose vein problems. She was about 30 and realized she had another 15 years of fertility; so she asked me, the parish lay evangelist, point blank, “What are we to do?” At that point I didn’t know enough even to give her accurate Calendar-Temperature rhythm rules.

However, there were certainly others who were very clear in saying that they were sure that the Church was going to change its teaching, so they hinted that it was okay to go ahead and use unnatural forms of birth control. Their articles were in periodicals read by Catholics, and their brochures and pamphlets might be found in church literature racks. There was little vocal opposition from the local clergy.

This is the background for my conviction that the demise of breastfeeding and its consequent hyper-fertility played a big role in the acceptance of contraception.

That’s why Sheila and I have always included ecological breastfeeding in our natural family planning instruction. When mothers follow the Seven Standards of ecological breastfeeding, they will experience, on average, 14 to 15 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea (no periods). They have a right to know this, and they also have a right to know that without following the seven standards they will most likely have a relatively early return of fertility.

Aside from the extended natural infertility that God Himself built into this pattern of baby-care, there are a plethora of demonstrated health benefits for babies and even for the mothers. In our manual, Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach, we list 21 health benefits for babies and 8 for the mothers. It seems to me that everyone who loves mothers and babies would want young couples to know these things. That’s why we think ecological breastfeeding should be incorporated into every church-affiliated NFP program. We don’t think that young people should have to wait for a July freeze in Texas for this information to be made universally available in church-affiliated educational efforts.

Are programs that relate breastfeeding-in-general, commonly called cultural breastfeeding, with delayed fertility really being fair with couples? That was the sort of talk common in the early 1960s before Sheila did her research and published the importance of mother-baby closeness and frequency of nursing. Cultural nursing almost guarantees an early return of fertility.

For accurate information, see, the manual mentioned above, and especially Sheila’s most recent book, The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor available at that website. Faithful Catholics and other interested parties need and deserve every help they can get in countering the sexual revolution and anti-family propaganda, and this sort of down-to-earth help simply must become a common part of the help that is given.

John F. Kippley, July 19, 2014




Morality of Natural Family Planning

Early on the morning of January 25th, NFP International received an email from a gentleman who is highly critical of NFP.  Though he does not use the word “providentialism,” that’s his position.  He also posted a similar note on a blogsite where a Catholic deacon was reviewing once again the terms used in ecclesial documents to describe the moral use of NFP.  This subject has been worked over more than a few times, so I will be relatively brief.

In all of the comments or rants I have seen against the use of NFP, the writers completely ignore Ecological Breastfeeding as a form of NFP.  What they mean by the generic term, NFP or Natural Family Planning, is solely what we call Systematic Natural Family Planning.  These writers fail to make this distinction, perhaps out of ignorance about eco-breastfeeding or perhaps in some cases because their argument about being open to God’s will falls apart completely with regard to eco-breastfeeding as a God-given natural way of spacing babies.  Unfortunately, this distinction is rarely made even within the NFP movement.

Our correspondent quoted section 17 of Humanae Vitae where Pope Paul VI predicted the harmful effects of the societal acceptance of contraception, but then he criticizes the same Pope for promoting NFP.  “In other words, Pope Paul VI predicted that contraception would evolve from ‘a lifestyle choice’ into a weapon of mass destruction. The Pope wrote all this and then went ahead and started promoting NFP.  Why?  The promptings to promote NFP are not from God[,] their [they’re] from hell…unless God is a liar!”  He then quoted familiar pro-baby verses from the Bible.

The anti-NFP critics have a point—Catholic teaching calls for generosity in having children.  But it also teaches the practice of Christian prudence which is different from materialistic prudence.  In our teaching we make it very clear that systematic NFP is not “Catholic birth control.”  The decision to use systematic NFP should be made in the light of an examination of motives and only in the face of sufficiently serious reasons not to  seek pregnancy at that time.  This is well spelled out in our manual, and any interested reader can obtain it in print or via a download at the NFPI website,  For many couples, this thoughtful consideration and decision making is the hardest part of natural family planning.

The decision to do Ecological Breastfeeding, on the other hand, doesn’t entail any such soul searching.  It requires only 1) the realization that this form of breastfeeding provides the best nutrition and baby care and 2) the mother’s freedom to have her baby with her.  For many couples, it is such a pleasant experience that they are looking forward to another baby by the time fertility returns.

It seems to me that the critics of systematic NFP would use their energy better to become well informed about what NFPI teaches in a well balanced way.  Then they would be in a position to present a rational and religious case and ask the diocese to insist that all these things be taught in all the various diocesan NFP efforts.  It is high time for every diocesan NFP effort to promote and teach ecological breastfeeding.

The right kind of diocesan natural baby spacing courses can be a work of the New Evangelization, making it clear that Jesus is the ultimate Author of Catholic teaching on love and marriage, but that may be rare at present.  In fact, some NFP programs take pride in being solely secular.  The time has come to proclaim without fear the fullness of Catholic teaching plus providing sufficient information—including eco-breastfeeding—so couples can make informed decisions for lives of Christian discipleship and baby care.

Pope Francis and “Unbridled Capitalism”

I thought that the fuss about Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) had died out, but The Cincinnati Enquirer recently devoted a full page story (Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014) headlined “Papal shot at unbridled capitalism stirs debate.”  Coming more than six weeks after the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation, the content of what the Pope said was no longer news, so the subject was political commentary.

One Catholic politician said, “I don’t dwell on what the Pope has to say about economics.  I’m more mindful of what the Pope has to say about faith and morals.”  He might be surprised to know that economics has to do with human behavior, not just numbers, and within the Catholic Church the subject started as a part of moral theology.

The subject of debate is what the Pope wrote about “unbridled capitalism.”  Please note that the words “unbridled capitalism” do not appear in the document.  Others seem to recognize that certain behaviors deserve that title, including behaviors criticized by the Pope, but the Pope does not use even the word “capitalism” in this document.

My father’s sense of justice was agitated by the unbridled capitalism that he had witnessed.  John D. Rockefeller and a partner became wealthy in the produce business  and then built an oil refinery during the Civil War.  By the end of the war, he had bought out some of his partners, and by 1870 he formed Standard Oil.  He would enter a geographic market, price his product below cost, drive the existing marketers out of business, and then raise the price and extend his growing monopoly.  That sort of abuse led to the formation of the Sherman Anti-trust Law of 1890, thus putting at least somewhat of a bridle on the previously ruthless and unbridled Rockefeller capitalism.

It is probably true that in the United States and in much of Western Europe, we no longer have the economics that can be called “unbridled capitalism.”  But that doesn’t mean that economics is no longer part of moral theology or that our systems cannot be greatly improved for the betterment of those who are excluded from participating in the benefits of a prosperous economy.

The remaining Rockefellers remain at the top of the economic sphere, and Pope Francis is on solid ground when he writes about the growing separation of the very rich from the very poor.  He rightly urges the wealthy and would-be wealthy to be less concerned about growing more wealthy and to be more concerned about the poor.  He does not, however, address the issue of what the poor can do to help themselves.

As I have written before, one of the great impediments to participation in the benefits of a prosperous economy is fornication.  In the United States, the single greatest source of new poverty is the household headed by a single mother with children.  The American elite have tried to address this with condoms, the Pill, the Shot, and abortion, and the rate of illegitimacy has only proceeded to rise.  The answer is and must be spiritual and moral.

It is time for the Church to affirm this over and over again until it finally sinks in, first within the social-justice agencies of the Church and then within the culture.  But how can the local Church expect to have any influence on single young men and women, many of them unchurched, if it won’t even attempt to do what it can do among its own pew-sitters?  And what it can do, but largely refuses to do, is to require that engaged couples attend the right kind of NFP course, one that includes Catholic morality as well as ecological breastfeeding and the full sympto-thermal method.

What is needed is a new book on the subject of Catholic teaching on economics.  It should place its foundation in Sacred Scripture and moral theology.  Then it should place each of the social justice encyclicals and exhortations in their historical context.  It should also include the centuries-old moral theology concerning breastfeeding and the needs and rights of babies as Fr. William Virtue, PhD, did in his masterful work, Mother and Infant: The Moral Theology of Embodied Self-Giving in Motherhood in Light of the Exemplar Couplet Mary and Jesus.  It is my hunch that many folks, including Catholics, are quite unaware of both the content of this body of teaching and the social ills to which it has responded and continues to address.  In the meantime, I suggest that most of us will benefit by a careful reading of Evangelii Gaudium and also re-reading Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae. 

Your Right to Know: Spacing effectiveness of breastfeeding

You certainly have a God-given right to know the spacing effectiveness of breastfeeding, and you also need to know the differences between the different forms of breastfeeding.

Cultural breastfeeding has almost no effect on the return of fertility.  In other words, fertility returns almost as fast as it does with bottlefeeding.  That’s because Westernized cultural breastfeeding generally entails nursing according to a schedule, regularly using pacifiers and bottles, leaving the baby in the care of others, and trying to get the baby to sleep through the night as soon as possible.  All of these practices reduce the frequency and the amount of nursing, the length of nursing sessions, and generally the months of breastfeeding.  This form of breastfeeding certainly provides some benefits to baby and mother alike, but it should not be expected to delay the return of fertility.

Exclusive breastfeeding is also called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM).

This form of breastfeeding can have a very high spacing effectiveness for the first six months postpartum if three Standards are followed.

  1. The baby is exclusively breastfed.  The baby receives only his mother’s milk directly from her breasts for his nourishment.  He does not receive any other food or liquid.  His mother’s milk is his only food and liquid.  Exclusive really does mean exclusive.
  2. The mother has no menstrual bleeding after the first 8 weeks postpartum.
  3. The baby must be younger than 6 months of age.  Thus the LAM applies only for six months.

Research has shown that the LAM has a 98% spacing effectiveness during the first 6 months.  During the first 8 weeks postpartum, any bleeding may be ignored as a sign of fertility according to the LAM research.

A problem with LAM is that only about half the mothers doing exclusive breastfeeding will experience natural infertility for six months.  That is, they will have a period before six months.  That’s because many mothers doing LAM do not nurse frequently enough.

Ecological breastfeeding (EBF) means breastfeeding according to the Seven Standards of ecological breastfeeding as follows:

  1. Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life as in LAM above.
  2. Pacify or comfort your baby at your breasts.
  3. Don’t use bottles and don’t use pacifiers.
  4. Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
  5. Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.
  6. Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules.
  7. Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.

Mothers who care for their babies according to the Seven Standards will experience, as a group, an average of 14 to 15 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea (no periods).

The return of menses with EBF follows a normal distribution curve.  In our two studies—

    •   7% had a first period before 6 months,

    • 56% were without menstruation at 12 months,

• 34% were still in amenorrhea at 18 months. 

    • The average duration of amenorrhea was 14.5 months. 

Research by Doctors Remfry (1895) and Prem (1971) showed that only 6% of nursing mothers actually became pregnant before they had their first period, and those studies occurred before women had learned to identify the return of fertility from the presence of cervical mucus and/or changes in the cervix.

Besides the natural baby spacing benefit, the other great blessing of ecological breastfeeding is that its frequent suckling maintains the milk supply and thus maximizes the many health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby.  For a list of the 21 benefits to babies and 8 benefits to mothers, see pages 103-104 of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach.  And the full list of benefits grows every year.

Because of both the spacing benefits and the health benefits, we think it is highly appropriate to refer to ecological breastfeeding as God’s own plan for spacing and baby care.  It is difficult to understand why anyone who is interested in the welfare of babies and mothers is not making every reasonable effort to promote and teach ecological breastfeeding.

JFK, September 22, 2013

Next week:  Minimum standards

Your Right to Know: Ecological Breastfeeding

NFP Awareness Week in 2013 runs from July 21 through July 27.  This week I begin focusing on your God-given right to know certain facts about natural family planning.  The order of my topics will follow a more or less chronological order according to which the process or sign was practiced or discovered.

Let’s start with ecological breastfeeding because this is the sort of breastfeeding that was practiced for many thousands of years and was significantly responsible, according to some demographers, for keeping the world population quite stable for many centuries.  This is the kind of baby care in which mother takes her baby with her wherever she goes and allows her baby to nurse whenever he or she wants.  The result is frequent and unrestricted nursing.

The 19th century Malthusians drew attention to population issues, dropped the morality of the Rev. Thomas Malthus, and were soon promoting contraception.  Among the social classes in which women breastfed their own babies, there was a general if confused knowledge that breastfeeding somehow delayed the next pregnancy.  This led Dr. Leonard Remfry of British Columbia to study the effect of lactation on menstruation and pregnancy, and in 1895 he published that only six percent of the breastfeeding women in his study became pregnant before their first postpartum menstruation .  Dr. Konald Prem of the University of Minnesota Medical School surveyed nursing mothers and found in 1971 that only five percent became pregnant before they had a first period.

Research was more plentiful in the second half of the 20th century, and Sheila has summarized this at .  When she  attended La Leche League meetings in 1963-1967, the League promoted the idea that “total breastfeeding” spaces babies, but among mothers who gave their babies nothing but their breastmilk there was still a wide variation in the length of breastfeeding amenorrhea (the absence of periods).  The mothers would discuss this, and one of them, Nancy Hornback, really encouraged Sheila to research it.

That she did, and the combination of the research and the experiences of nursing mothers led her to formulate a hypothesis.  She wrote her first book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, and included a survey.  That survey showed that those mothers who followed what we now call the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding averaged 14.6 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea.  See .

Some years later she analyzed a much larger number of surveys and found almost exactly the same results, 14.5 months .

Other researchers have found similar or almost identical results.  The evidence is clear.  The frequent suckling of ecological breastfeeding naturally postpones the return of menstruation and fertility.  On average, if the mothers become pregnant soon after their first period, their babies will be spaced about two years apart, and that’s beautiful.  Ecological breastfeeding is an excellent form of natural baby spacing.

Everyone has a God-given right to know this information.  It is truly God’s own way of spacing babies, and the frequent suckling both maximizes all the benefits of breastfeeding and maintains a mother’s milk supply.

So why doesn’t every Church-related NFP course teach ecological breastfeeding as a normal part of its instruction?  I don’t know.

Should the Catholic Church insist that all NFP programs related to diocesan or parish efforts promote and teach ecological breastfeeding?  Well, why not?  Isn’t it part of God’s natural revelation?  And doesn’t the Catholic Church have to teach both the natural and the divine law?  And isn’t it obliged to do what it can to help couples live out the teaching of Humanae Vitae?  And what could be more healthy?

My conclusion:  Since ecological breastfeeding is God’s own plan for spacing babies, you have a God-given right to learn it, and the Catholic Church has a God-given obligation to teach it to engaged and married couples.  In fact, it should be taught by respectful teachers in seventh or eighth grade.

Next week: Your Right to Know: Cervical Mucus.