Breastfeeding, Bell Bottoms and Birth Control

When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a little cabin nestled in pine trees on the northern coast of California. In the 1960’s my husband was a hippie and a drug dealer till he got saved and became a "Jesus Freak." I was more of a "hippie wannabe" myself. I dressed the part with bell bottom jeans, Birkenstock sandals and had long straight hair parted down the middle. Against conventional advice I birthed our first born son at home and it was only natural to tuck him into bed with us.

Maybe it was the influence of the hippie mentality to be a non-conformist, or maybe God gave me a bit of wisdom, I don’t know, but when everyone seemed to think our baby should sleep in a crib in the other room, and that I should work toward getting him to sleep through the night, I didn't listen. The crib became a laundry basket and a place to bed down teddy bears.

Danny was a beautiful baby—I called him my golden boy. He had alert blue eyes, rosy cheeks and lots of blond fuzzy hair. He breastfed vigorously right away and looked straight into my eyes with an intensity that took my breath away.

After Danny I took a week off and enjoyed a "babymoon." I stayed in my bedroom so we could bond with one another, recover from childbirth, and learn how to breastfeed. I think the nursing hormones agreed with me. I felt elated after having my baby. I told Cliff, "I feel so fulfilled now that I am a mother; it’s as if I’ve found my destiny!"

Up to this time, Cliff had called children “rug rats” and couldn’t see having more than two of them. He soon changed his mind. Neither he nor I had anticipated the love that would well up inside for our child. I began to read voraciously on the subject of mothering. I discovered that breastfeeding and reading go together quite well.

Harriet Connor Brown, in her book Grandmother Brown’s Hundred Years: 1827-1927 wrote: "It seemed as if the only time when I felt justified in taking up a book or paper was when I sat down to nurse my babies. I always nursed them till they were pretty big. I couldn’t bear to wean them—they kept so fat and pretty as long as I fed them at the breast. And so it happened that Frank would sometimes pull at my skirt and hand me a newspaper, as a hint he would like to be taken up and nursed."

With our easy breezy California lifestyle it was natural to carry my baby along with me wherever I went—my bosom buddy. With three month old Daniel in my arms, I asked our midwife an urgent question, "My period hasn’t come back; do you think something is wrong with me?" She explained how ovulation is delayed by frequent breastfeeding. This is technically called "Lactational Amenorrhea." "Lactational" simply means producing milk, and "amenorrhea" is a fancy word for not having a menstrual cycle. What a relief to find out what I was experiencing was normal.

When Cliff and I were first married, we decided to listen to conventional advice and I took the birth control pill. I didn’t take it for long because I had terrible weeping episodes—one of the side effects of the pill. As soon as I went off of it, my good humor returned. I am thankful because later on I found out the truth that the Pill can sometimes actually cause an abortion of a newly conceived baby. The pill also increases the risk of breast cancer. For the first year of our marriage we used condoms to prevent conception because, again, we followed conventional advice that told us it would be bad for our marriage to have a baby right away.

After Daniel was born we decided to take classes in a natural birth control method, called Natural Family Planning. We finished the course; but didn’t practice the method because I had no fertility to observe as a result of responsive breastfeeding. My chart was flat! However, in the N.F.P. class I had an informative little book about breastfeeding and fertility placed into my hands called Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing by Sheila Kippley. She conducted extensive surveys of breastfeeding mothers, researching other cultures around the world. She wrote a thesis paper on how women, who fully practice responsive breastfeeding, average 14.6 months with no menstrual cycle, will have babies born about 18 to 30 months apart.

Here was scientific proof for what we had been led to believe was an old wives’ tale. What a revelation! God in His miraculous and wondrous creativity had built in His own natural form of birth control right from the start. God’s plan is that a woman gives birth and then has a good, long period of infertility while she cares for her new baby and regains her strength. There is no need for charts, thermometers, family planning, artificial birth control or mucus checking. We threw the condoms in the trash!

I ignored conventional advice and did not start my baby on solid food at six months old. Instead, when he had a set of teeth to chew with at twelve months old, I started to feed him pieces of banana or avocado. Teeth signify that digestive enzymes are present and the baby is ready to handle solid food.

When I was pregnant with our second child, I had to go to the dentist. While waiting for my appointment, an article in the magazine Scientific American entitled “Breast Feeding” caught my eye. I eagerly read the first sentence: "Breast feeding is nature's contraceptive." This article is a seven page, detailed scientific paper with statistics, charts and graphs. For example, one study revealed that cows left together with their calves had no ovulation activity for prolonged periods, but whenever a calf's suckling was limited, the cow returned to fertility.

A World Fertility Survey in 1980 revealed that prolonged infertility in breastfeeding women in undeveloped countries. These primitive uninhibited women allowed their babies to suckle at will, carried them and kept them close, did not supplement with any other food, or use artificial nipples or pacifiers. The mothers slept with their babies and allowed them to nurse at night and breastfed them till they were about three or four years old. As a result their children were naturally spaced two to four years apart!

This article communicated how we American mothers are often out-of-touch with our natural God-given instincts to respond to our babies and make the breast available in a relaxed, uninhibited manner. It was interesting to note that the modern inventions of bottles, pacifiers, cribs, playpens, baby food and schedules all lead to artificial birth control methods and devices!

In a La Leche League newsletter findings were published from the World Lactation Conference in Bellagio, Italy in 1988. Enough scientific data was gathered to establish, as a scientific fact, that breastfeeding mothers (that practice frequent breastfeeding, night nursing, no supplementation, no artificial nipples, no pacifiers etc.) who remain amenorrheic (without a menstrual cycle) have less than a two percent chance of becoming pregnant in the first six months postpartum. In the second six months postpartum, IF “responsive breastfeeding” is strictly adhered to, the chance of a mother becoming pregnant before the first period is only six percent.

At the World Lactation Conference statistics from birth records from all over the world (recorded prior to the 20th century before modern artificial birth control methods were available), revealed that when mother’s milk supplied the major source of nourishment for infants during the first year and a half of life, the average spacing of children was about two years. To me these statistics prove that responsive breastfeeding is the best birth control method on the planet! Truly this was God’s design in the first place.

Of course, these statistics are calculated on the average. There are some mothers, like me, that practice responsive breastfeeding and have babies every two and a half years, or even three years apart or more. However, I had a friend that nursed responsively just like me and she had babies every 18 months just like clockwork. Ultimately, we trust God as our “family planner.” He is the Creator of new life, regardless of breastfeeding.

I’ve been birthing and breastfeeding for a long time—almost 24 years. I am still breastfeeding and hey—bell bottoms are back in style! Cliff and I have eight children, (not including miscarried babies) ranging in age from 23 years to three years old as of this writing, August 2006. Several of our children are spaced 29 months apart without the use of any artificial contraceptives or birth control method.

Sadly, my days of being a breastfeeding mother seem to be coming to a close. I am 48 years old and our eighth only nurses at bedtime now and sometimes falls asleep without nursing. Cycle after cycle goes by and I have not conceived again. My fertility ain’t what she used to be. We don't know if the Lord will bless us with any more children or not, but Cliff and I are hoping for one more.

Take it from this old wife, Jenny! You can learn how to practice responsive breastfeeding to nourish and nurture your baby and discover God's design to naturally delay fertility.

Sequim, Washington, USA
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If you are interested in learning to practice responsive breastfeeding and at the same time naturally delay the return to fertility, you will want to read Jenny Silliman’s new book—


Jenny’s Twenty Keys to Practice Responsive Breastfeeding

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breastfeeding and Fertility

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Learn How to Practice Responsive Breastfeeding to Nourish and Nurture Your Baby and Discover God's Design To Naturally Delay Fertility.

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Scheduled breastfeding and bottle feeding are in style. It is not surprising since these are convenient for the busy modern mother. Conventional advice has supported feeding baby on a schedule for a few generations and for many women this is all they know.

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