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The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding

In speaking about natural child spacing, I frequently find myself referring to the Seven Standards that are essential during the first six months postpartum if the mother wants to experience breastfeeding infertility.

The key to the natural child spacing aspect of breastfeeding is frequent and unrestricted nursing, and that is usually provided by the Seven Standards. The Seven Standards are easy to do when mom remains with her baby, and that is what ecological breastfeeding is all about — mother and baby being together.

What are the Seven Standards that provide the frequent and unrestricted nursing?

1. Do exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. This means that your baby does not take any other liquids or solids. The only nourishment your baby receives is your milk from your breasts.

2. Pacify your baby at your breasts. This means that you pacify your baby at the breast for comfort or to meet his other emotional needs. This comfort nursing usually involves nursing the baby to sleep.

3. Don’t use bottles and pacifiers. These items take the place of what should be occurring at the breast during the first six months of life. It is possible to take care of a baby without a pacifier. I did it for four babies. I am not opposed to that rare situation where the pacifier calms a baby after all options have been tried. But it can soon become a habit.

One mother who experienced an early return of menstruation meant to use the pacifier only once or twice for her extremely fussy baby. She soon found she was giving her baby the pacifier regularly. Caring for the baby ourselves is what natural parenting is all about. And the extra sucking that should be taking place at the breast instead of on a pacifier is what helps the mother remain in amenorrhea.

4. Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
This means the family bed. You learn to sleep while you nurse your baby during the night. It has been demonstrated through research that a baby who stays at his mother’s side during the night nurses three times more nightly than the baby who sleeps nearby or away from his mother during the night.

5. Sleep with your baby for a daily nap-feeding. This means you go to sleep for a short time and you nurse your baby during your nap. It does not mean that you lay there waiting for the baby to fall asleep so you can get up and get things done. That is not a nap. Rest is essential when nursing and can be very important in maintaining infertility for the nursing mother. The nap was a priority for me when I was a young mother and had several small children and a nursing baby. I would ask my preschoolers to lay quietly with me for 30 minutes and then they could get up. Usually they fell asleep as I did. Most schools for preschool and kindergarten children have a rest period. We should be able to do this also in our homes.

For couples who desire 18 to 30 months between the births of their children, ecological breastfeeding should be sufficient.

6. Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules. This means the absence of any schedule, even the two-hour schedule. I recently counseled a mother who used a two-hour schedule and still had to use a bottle for two feedings because she did not have an ample milk supply with this schedule. To have an ample milk supply, all you have to do is nurse frequently as baby desires and nurse during the night and those daily naps.

7. Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby. This means that you do not leave your baby; you learn to take your baby with you. In addition, you avoid using certain equipment excessively which may become a substitute for your parenting. The occasional and brief use of certain baby equipment is okay. But again parents may rely more and more on these gadgets so they do not have to spend time parenting their babies or small children. Babies have the right to be cared for by their parents, especially their mothers. By being physically close to the mother, the baby is stimulated to nurse more often.

The beauty of ecological breastfeeding is that the mother learns how to give of herself to her baby. I know some mothers who follow the ecological breastfeeding program and have a high need baby. These moms wish their babies weren’t so high need. But they realize that eventually their babies or little ones will outgrow this need to be extra close to mother. They realize this care is best for their child, and they enjoy the special close relationship.

Mothers who follow the Seven Standards and remain in amenorrhea during the first six months postpartum will have a 99% infertility rate.

Remember that the first 56 days of vaginal bleeding can be ignored with ecological breastfeeding. About seven out of 100 ecological breastfeeding mothers will experience an early return of menstruation at about three to four months postpartum, but some of these mothers will remain infertile until the child is about a year old, as has been shown by charting. This is due to the continued frequent and unrestricted nursing on the part of the mother. Couples in this situation may begin charting if pregnancy is not desired.

About 70% of ecologically breastfeeding mothers in this country experience their first menstruation between nine and 20 months postpartum.

The average return of menstruation for ecologically breastfeeding
mothers everywhere is between 14 and 15 months postpartum. For couples who desire 18 to 30 months between the births of their children, ecological breastfeeding should be sufficient.

Interestingly, a new study confirms that “infants conceived 18 to 23 months after a previous live birth had the lowest risks of adverse perinatal outcomes; shorter and longer interpregnancy intervals were associated
with higher risks.”  ❖

[Sheila Kippley, CCL Family Foundations, May-June 1999]