My Experience Practicing Ecological Breastfeeding

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(Lucy, age 4 months with me while the bridesmaids prepared for my best friend’s wedding)

photo credit: Jade Pierce Photography

After having such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience with breastfeeding and creating a secure attachment with our firstborn when I was working full-time that I shared with you yesterday, I was determined to do it differently for round two. When I was pregnant with Lucy I started looking into Ecological Breastfeeding as promoted by Sheila Kippley (mostly because I was interested in the natural child spacing aspects). I fell in love with this practice of mama and baby togetherness and when I used it as my model for caring for Baby Lucy I was amazed at how natural, liberating, and stress-free it was. I highly recommend Kippley’s books: Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood and The Seven Principles of Ecological Breastfeeding.

On Friday we went on our first outing unaccompanied by 9-month-old Lucy since her birth. I have left her for an hour or so with Daniel on a handful of occasions and a couple of times with my mother, also for a brief time. Other than that I have been with her every second of her life. We have such a strong and secure attachment and I have never seen a calmer, happier, more independent, or more flexible baby. Now, I believe that Lucy’s temperament is simply calmer than our firstborn’s and she would be an easier baby regardless. But, I truly think ecological breastfeeding has helped.

God created women’s bodies with the ability to nourish their babies. Until recently when pumping became an option, breastfeeding meant that a mother couldn’t be away from her baby longer than a couple of hours because her baby would soon be hungry and need to nurse. It makes sense to me that this lack of separation between mother and baby serves other positive purposes and is a natural way I can choose to parent.

These are some of the principles of ecological breastfeeding that I have implemented:

Don’t schedule. Even now when people ask me what time Lucy eats and naps I don’t know what to tell them. I have never tried to get her to eat or sleep at a certain time during the day. Some days she naps once. Other days she naps 4 times. We follow her lead for a nightly bedtime which is now around 7:30.

Nurse on demand. If she acts like she’s hungry, I let her nurse. If she needs comfort, I let her nurse. I nurse her all the time. She never has to cry to let me know she’s hungry. I always nurse her before then. She is a delightfully perfect weight, not overweight, not underweight. And, I’ve lost 50 lbs since her birth without dieting or even exercising (eek, should probably do something about that) except for teaching ballet classes once a week! So, no complaints here!

Don’t do bottles or pacifiers. Now, I thought that I would hate not having the freedom to pump and leave her with a baby sitter and a bottle. I have found that pumping was WAY more of a drag than finding creative ways to take my baby everywhere I need to go. I also thought it would be torturous not to use pacifiers, but after not using them, I realize it’s so much easier than having to keep one with you at all times, not to mention those inevitable night wakings when baby screams because her paci fell out.

Co-sleeping. We did this for the first six months and I slept so well knowing she was right next to me. At five months she started waking 6-8 times a night. After a few weeks of that, we moved her to her own crib and she wakes 2-4 times a night (still a lot but a huge improvement). I think smelling my milk and bumping into me at night was waking her up and having her own space is improving her sleep and mine. I still nurse her back to sleep whenever she wakes.

Nap with your baby: I followed this rule rigorously since Kippley cites this principle as being crucial to help delay the return of the mama’s fertility. But mine still came back at 5 months, so after that I eased up and I will nap with her often but not daily.

Don’t be separated from baby. I thought this would really cramp my style and I did have to get creative with implementing this principle on the afternoon that I work part-time. I ended up paying a babysitter to watch Lucy at the studio where I worked and I would nurse her during breaks.

Lucy rarely fusses or cries and she is always easy to console. Daniel thinks this is because her needs are always met. While Benjamin would scream if he wasn’t touching my body (regardless of whether I was in the same room), Lucy will happily play and explore the house without needing to touch me or even stay in her line of vision. It’s as if she is secure in the fact that I am there and will always be nearby. If you’re interested in Ecological Breastfeeding in more detail, check out Sheila Kippley’s books!

Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood

The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. Christine says

    Your thoughts about Lucy are interesting. My little girl is 4.5 months old and is similar to how you describe Lucy. I was just telling my husband last niht that I believe it is, at least in part, because we have an “attachment parenting” style approach to her. We respond when she cries, she is exclusively breastfed, I feed her on demand, we room share, we don’t use pacifiers, and while I do work full-time, she is never with anyone other than myself, my husband and her nanny. We rarely use things like strollers and swings. I prefer to carry her in a Maya Wrap than use a stroller. It is nice to hear that someone else is doing similar things and getting a similar result. Thanks for sharing.

    • Haley says

      I love my Maya wrap! I find it much easier and less cumbersome than a stroller. After working full-time with our firstborn, I know how hard it is to exclusively breastfed and work, so good for you, mama!

  2. says

    sounds like we did a lot of Eco Breastfeeding things too, except for the breastfeeding part – cosleeping, adjusting to his schedule, feeding on demand, and Henry is a calm, happy baby boy! All of it makes so much sense no matter how they’re fed!

    • Haley says

      Henry is such a precious name! I’m so glad you figured out what worked for your family and your sweet boy :)

  3. LMM says

    These principles are wonderful. I did much of the same with my two boys, since I got generous (for the US) maternity leaves (7 months for each child – paid! – and with my first I was even able to have him with me in an on-site daycare so I could nurse him for 6 months after I returned to work). All the more reason to have generous paid leave for employees, so those of us who do have to work outside the home don’t have to give up the opportunity to have this important bonding.

    • Haley says

      What an awesome maternity leave situation! I only had five weeks and it was just HORRIBLE. I know the US has terrible maternity leave options compared to other countries. And I agree, getting to have that wonderful bonding is invaluable.

  4. Jenna says

    I had a similar style with Wim and she was terribly fussy nevertheless. I planned to do the same with Sam, but he was not interested in co-sleeping (which is fine by me since he sleeps all night anyway) and he put himself on a schedule! I’m not even on a schedule!! He wants to eat at exactly 6:30, 8:30, 12:30, 2:30, 5:30, 7:30 and 9:00. We could set a clock by him. I’m so glad that your second experience had been much improved. I’m a working mommy, but a lucky one that can take baby with me. It’s nice to be able to work full time and still breastfeed.

    • Haley says

      I am so interested in how much of a baby’s temperament is already formed at birth and how much is formed by what we do as mothers. I’m sure B would have been a difficult infant no matter what I did and that Lucy would be an easygoing babe, too. But I wonder if anything would have helped him? No way to know now, I guess. I love how every baby is different and thrives on different things. And it is so awesome that you can breastfeed at work!

  5. Nena Stopnik says

    Loved this post. This is what I introduced at about 6 months with my son and what I chose to do with my daughter from birth. I had no idea there was a term for it. I will definitely read up on ecological breastfeeding. My daughter is 9 months and has never had a pacifier or bottle. I have introduced solids slowly and began at 7 months. I have begun with fruits and veggies only. I feel that her primary nourishment will come from breast milk until she is 12 months. My son was a colicky baby and it made a huge difference when I exclusively breastfed. He was introduced to formula in the hospital against my wishes because I was suffering from a spinal headache as a result of an epidural.
    We don’t follow schedules and I nurse on demand. I like when you said “If she acts like she’s hungry, I let her nurse. If she needs comfort, I let her nurse. I nurse her all the time. She never has to cry to let me know she’s hungry. I always nurse her before then.” I follow the same philosophy. Nursing is amazing. I lost all my baby weight and then some. When you commit to nursing and eating healthy in order to nurse efficiently, you really see that your body was meant to provide for your child and bring itself back to its former self. We co-sleep and I have never been separated from either of my children for longer than a couple hours. My fertility has not returned at this point. I don’t get a chance to nap with my daughter, but maybe it’s the co-sleeping. These are the commitments I made as a mother and I’m very happy with these decisions. I see the bond I have with both of my children and I’m very happy. I like when you said “Now, I thought that I would hate not having the freedom to pump and leave her with a baby sitter and a bottle. I have found that pumping was WAY more of a drag than finding creative ways to take my baby everywhere I need to go.” I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to attend every event and probably miss out on some fun outings, but I was okay with it. If I couldn’t bring my kids, I wasn’t interested. They are both great kids. I have made the commitment to completely be at my daughter’s disposal for her first year. I see such an amazing difference having started from the beginning with her from when my son was a baby. Call it “attachment parenting”, but my kids are more functional, well behaved and happy than other kids we’ve been around who are slaves to schedules and the cry out method. I suppose I just believe in being there for them completely and in wanting them to feel secure and happy :)

    • Haley says

      Thanks, Nena! I think your baby girl and Lucy are about the same age. We started solids at 7 months as well, just fruits, veggies, and some proteins like egg yolks, chicken, and quinoa. I kind of just let her have bits of what we’re having as long as there’s no dairy or grains in it and don’t worry too much about solids in general since she’s still doing so much nursing (girl loves to nurse!). It took me forever to lose the baby weight I gained with Benjamin (well…I do gain A LOT when I’m pregnant) and it’s just fallen out this time around. I think if my fertility hadn’t come back we would still be co-sleeping to help delay its return, but since it did come back super fast, despite all my EBF practices, I was willing to let it go since she sleeps better on her own these days. Sometimes I’m slightly miffed that my fertility returned so soon but, hey! God knows best, right? And yes, there are times when I can’t attend events (like weddings that are adults only), but because Lucy is such a happy, calm baby, I can take her all sorts of places that I would never have dreamed taking Baby Benjamin. For me, a secure baby means a stress-free mama and that’s worth it!

  6. Kimberly says

    SO nice to hear your success story with Eco-bf. :) It’s nice to see evidence of other Catholic women catching on. My Grandmother was a good friend of Sheila Kippley’s (and actually Sheila credits her for getting her first book written) so it was wisdom directly handed to me. So when I find young Catholic women out there that are smart enough to find the truth on their own, I feel such love for you! Thank you for promoting God’s beautiful, natural plan for babies and mothers! :)
    BTW, I’ve just had a return of menses at 18 mos. p.p. and am looking forward to pregnancy number 4! Wonder when it will happen this time…

    • Haley says

      Thank you for your sweet and encouraging note, Kimberly! I saw EBF referenced in a post by Kate Wicker, was intrigued, and emailed her to find out more. She told me about Kippley’s books and I just love them. The whole mindset has been so wonderful and completely changed my attitude toward motherhood. I kind of wish sometimes that since I was such a stickler for all the EBF principles, my fertility would have waited a few more months to return (came back at 5 months! before I even started solids with her!). But I also felt at peace with the fact that I wouldn’t get pregnant again before my body was ready and here we are 9 months p.p. and not pregnant yet. At this point, I would be thrilled to find out I was expecting (though admittedly at 5 months I would have been a tad….erm…overwhelmed :) ) It is such a beautiful and exciting way to live, love, and mother.

      • Kimberly says

        Hmmm…

        You could be part of the 30% of women that only get 6 mos. amenorrhea. It sounds like you did do everything as best you could. But only 5 mos? That is even less than 6! You’re the type of Catholic we need, though! Talk about having a good, open-to-life attitude!
        Maybe it will work a little better next time. You never know. You look very healthy, and you must be to teach ballet. Do you have any digestion issues? I really have no concrete idea about any connection between the two but I have wondered often exactly what makes some women more responsive to E.B. than others.

        • Haley says

          I think I have some gluten sensitivity (my son is definitely allergic so that would make sense) and maybe some sensitivity to dairy but I ignore that because milk and butter are sooooo good :)
          Yes, maybe next time I’ll have a longer reprieve before my fertility returns, we’ll see! I am in good health and I’m only 26, so I imagine that as I get older, it may take longer for my fertility to return. Daniel just has to wink at me to get me pregnant, haha. But hey! I figure it’s a good problem to have and I’m grateful that my challenge is in being “too” fertile rather than the alternative! I’m actually surprised that 4 months after my period returned I’m not pregnant yet. And if ever there’s a health issue making a new pregnancy difficult in future, I guess we could always do NFP…I’m just so lazy about it :)

          • Kimberly says

            LOL, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m too lazy for all that charting and jazz. Actually, I think I’m just not “inspired” by it. After all, it’s only meant to be used in “grave” circumstances.
            It is surprising you’ve gotten away with four fertile months! Then again, we never do know what God is doing. Everything is a bit of a surprise, at the least.
            That’s cool that you’re 26; so am I! :)
            P.S. I don’t consider butter to be dairy! lol

  7. says

    Hi , someone told me about your beautiful post. I also came upon Sheila’s books when I was nursing my first baby; they changed my life, too + the nursing + charting to space our children has worked perfectly for us. Anyways, sometimes the early periods are not preceeded by an ovulation, due to the nursing hormones. Thus, saying that your fertility has returned may be incorrect in that maybe you are nursing enough to not ovulate? even though you have bleeds? Maybe you are not interested in the technicalities right now, but charting temps can tell you if you are indeed fertile or not during these cycles and give you data regarding ovulations/due dates in case you do conceive. I have a friend who does the whole Eco-BFeed and she has had several charts w/more than one baby w/o ovulations before periods. I guess we cannot know but you may be having several “warning periods” that Sheila talks about! I am still so amazed how our bodies work. And I am so pleased you are writing about Sheila’s books – I am sure that she is thrilled, too. I had to give formula w/my last 2 due to health problems and I so missed doing the full eco-Bfeed. Enjoy!

    • Haley says

      I somehow missed this comment. Sorry, Anne! I am pregnant with our 3rd baby now (conceived when Baby Lucy was 10ish months) so I think that you were probably exactly right. Those first bleeds were just warnings and I wasn’t actually ovulating yet. Since I didn’t bother charting, I won’t actually ever know if my fertility had actually returned during those early months, but I have gotten pregnant the first “try” with both of my first babies so I was surprised each month that I wasn’t pregnant but my period had returned after Lucy was born. The nursing must have given me an extra few months break which I was grateful for :)

  8. Christina says

    Hey! Catholic mom here and just found your blog. I love reading all of this. We have three little ones (ages 5, 2, and 8 months). We practice Army family planning. My husband deployed when my first was 6 months and returned at 18 months. My second was born 10 months later. The third was conceived 2 months after my period returned (when my daughter was 12 months old). I love ECO bfing. Who knows what will happen for our family with that big one year birthday coming up for my current baby. I usually bf for about 18 months. Thanks for sharing your stories.

    • Haley says

      Thanks, Christina! Last time I was able to breastfeed for 13 months before pregnancy changed the taste of my milk and Lucy wasn’t interested anymore. I’ve love to make it to the 2 year mark someday, but we’ll just have to see how it goes :)

  9. says

    I just started reading your blog recently and have been so inspired by you and your family! I am a Catholic mom and I don’t know anyone my age with a young family who is also a practicing Catholic so its so nice to be able to go to your blog for encouragement, advice or even when I feel discouraged and isolated.
    My first child is 3.5 mo old and due to being poorly informed by doctors and a stay in the NICU after she was born I was forced to pump and bottle feed. my husband and I are trying to learn NFP without an instructor (which I hate). I just ordered one of Kippley’s books and I JUST learned about eco BF. Unfortunately I think its too late for the martial benefits (which sucks because our marriage has been more abstinent than not) but after reading this post Im going to do it anyway! I logged on to your blog to see if you had written anything about it and sure enough you did!
    Thank you so much!

    • Haley says

      Hey Chelsea! Thanks for reading:) It took about a year after converting that we made any Catholic friends our age and that was really hard, so I can sympathize with how isolated you’re feeling! Prayers for a Catholic community that will support and encourage you!

      There are ZERO instructors in our diocese so we’re learning Marquette without an instructor and I soooooo wish we had one. I think I mentioned in the post that ecoBF doesn’t seem to delay the return of my fertility by much, but I’m still practicing it with baby three because I love the bonding benefits and I hate pumping so much (still haunted by the hours and hours I spent pumping for Benjamin! hoping to never do it again!)

      Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself and congrats on your little one :)

  10. Ashley says

    Do you recommend both books for someone familiar with attachment parenting and NFP or is one better than another? I’m trying to decide which one to buy, so I thought I’d ask. Thanks!

    • Haley says

      Ashley, I’d say they’re just serving a different purpose. The Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood book is more theological and covers the big picture value while the Seven Standards is more practical and how-to. She also has a Natural Child Spacing book from an ecobf perspective that I haven’t read, but want to read.

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