The Couple to Couple League (CCL) is the largest provider of Natural Family Planning (NFP) services in the US, and it has recently gone through an extreme makeover. Making a break with the Kippleys (author of: Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, The Art of Natural Family Planning), CCL is now promoting a more high tech, streamlined, and scientific approach to NFP. They have also adopted an altered approach to breastfeeding and child spacing and for that I give them two thumbs up! The new materials are really great, and the new student guide is a must have, with simpler rules, great computer graphics, and even a new software program (Cycle-Pro) to help chart your cycles.
Overall, I think the changes at CCL are GREAT, but I think the changes related to breastfeeding are SUPER GREAT! And here is why:
Two years ago my husband and I signed up to become NFP instructors for our diocese. We were required to receive training through CCL (this is typical of most diocesan offices), and we filled out the forms to enroll in the CCL teaching training program. This was prior to the new CCL materials and, in our application form, we were required to explain why we didn’t ecologically breastfeed our children. It was at this point that I realized just how intertwined CCL and the promoters of Attachment Parenting/ecological breastfeeding had become. If you want to know more of my thoughts on this, see a recent post of mine on this topic.
Now, I exclusively breastfeed my children, but I do not sleep with my babies, nor do I avoid pacifiers, etc. Under the old CCL regime, as NFP instructors, we would be expected to not only teach NFP, but to promote a particular style of parenting and child spacing: ecological breastfeeding/AP. At the time, we couldn’t sign the form saying we had personally practiced this type of parenting, nor would I sign anything agreeing to parent this way in the future. I explained my reasons fully in an attached essay, and we were granted an “exemption” so to speak, and because CCL was soon changing this part of the materials, we were permitted to move forward with the teacher training.
I saw the old regime’s ecological breastfeeding advocacy as problematic for the following reasons:
1. For many couples, fertility returns far sooner than couples would like, even while using ecological breastfeeding. When this happens, they are left distrusting many of the other things they learned in NFP classes.
2. Physicians, lactation consultants, and mainstream medical journals have not adopted the term “ecological breastfeeding.” This creates a disconnect between CCL and the medical community. Again, this leaves couples feeling misled about what they have learned in their NFP courses.
3. Ecological breastfeeding is REALLY difficult, and in many cases it isn’t possible to practice this method of breastfeeding—particularly in the very common situation where mom has to work part time.
4. Ecological breastfeeding is more of a parenting style/philosophy and CCL should focus on teaching NFP and promoting breastfeeding, and avoid entering into the parenting philosophy debates.
Thankfully, CCL agreed with many of these common objections, and as a result has altered their approach to NFP instruction and breastfeeding advocacy. With the new method, CCL continues to promote breastfeeding and its effect on fertility, with terms such as formula feeding, mixed feeding, exclusive breastfeeding, and continued breastfeeding. These terms are generally accepted in the medical community and explained fully in the new materials.
More importantly, CCL has moved away from prescribing breastfeeding in order to delay the return of fertility, and they will no longer refer to breastfeeding as a “form of NFP.” Rather, CCL promotes breastfeeding as part of responsible parenthood, a method of feeding that is unquestionably best for babies, and usually always best for mothers and families. While wholeheartedly promoting that “breast is best,” CCL no longer claims that a particular kind of breastfeeding is best for a particular family, and they no longer imply that an early return of fertility is the result of a mother not breastfeeding correctly. Alleluia!
Finally, CCL now provides clear and ACCURATE guidance on the return of fertility after childbirth, no matter what feeding method a family chooses.
As for how these changes came about, I don’t know the details, but I know that a lawsuit with the Kippley’s settled in 2007. For those unfamiliar with the Kippleys, they helped to found CCL, and are the authors of the original “The Art of Natural Family Planning.” Referred to as the NFP bible, the book was overwhelming in size and very intimidating for couples to flip through 400+ pages of material. The new method is significantly streamlined, and high tech, with a manual ½ the size of the old book. I think these changes will be a great help in promoting NFP and breastfeeding to a new generation of couples.
Disclaimer: While I am a CCL instructor, the previous statements and opinions are my own and I am not writing on behalf of CCL.