Breastfeeding in Synagogue Just Fine, Says Rabbi Aviner

Sephardic synagogue in JerusalemI have written about breastfeeding in the synagogue many times, including a guest post on DovBear that earned over 200 comments. One of the main arguments against nursing in shul is that it is somehow improper—even though I’ve never seen a source prohibiting it.

Eating is prohibited in shul because of kedushat beit haknesset, the sanctity of the synagogue. But I’ve never been in a shul that enforced the no-eating rule for small children. Aside from bottles, just think how much candy is passed out in your average synagogue.

The  alon put out last week by Machon Meir, Be-Ahava Uve-Emunah, published a rabbinic ruling by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner on breastfeeding in the women’s section of the synagogue:

Q: Can a woman nurse in the women’s section [of the synagogue] while she is covered?

A: Yes. It does not violate the sanctity of the women’s section.

Rabbi Aviner is a big fan of breastfeeding, but he is no meikil* when it comes to issues of women’s dress and modesty.

So the next time some busybody in shul tells you to nurse in the bathroom, feel free to stay put.

*Meikil: someone who generally gives lenient rulings.

Related:

Nursing in the Ezrat Nashim

Nursing in the Negev, or Nursing in the Toilet

Is Public Breastfeeding Immodest? An Orthodox Jewish Perspective

Rabbi Eliyahu Rules Against Breastfeeding in Bathrooms

Photo credit: upyernoz

Check out the 2016 fashions at Hydrochic modest swimwear.

Comments

  1. Though I’m a big proponent of breast feeding, I DO daven in a shul (they do exist) where the concept of not eating in shul is still the norm.
    I also have great difficulty with this issue because in my fairly extensive experience with breastfeeding my own children, I know that it is very common for the act of suckling to produce bowel movements, SOMETHING DEFINITELY OSSUR in a shul.
    But then again, I’m one of those people who feels that children don’t belong in shul until they can get something out of it, because the number of people whose tefillos are disturbed by their presence, far outweighs the (it could be argued, selfish) benefits to the child’s mother.

    • What about the benefits for the children for being in shul?

    • Hi G6:
      There is no halachic problem with davening near the bms of a fully breastfed baby. Stated clearly in the Shulhan Aruch, O”H 81:1–the bowel movements of a baby don’t count as feces (forbidden to say Shema near them) until the baby eats an olive-sized amount of grain.
      Glad to hear your shul doesn’t allow candy. I’m all for quiet and decorum in shul, but small babies in arms do not make very much noise.
      I’d like to separate decorum from nursing. The question here isn’t whether babies should be in shul. The question is whether nursing in shul is assur. A nursing baby in a sling is much less likely to make noise than othr children. The argument about kids and shul is a different one.
      It’s wrong to ask a nursing mother to leave shul. It’s not wrong to ask a mother to take out her crying baby.

  2. I am no fan of Rav Aviner to say the least.
    But – way to go!!!

  3. Cool!

  4. Thanks for posting this. I think it’s easy to get trapped in that gray area of Minhag and just not knowing. I’m glad to hear of shuls that aren’t doling out the candy just to get through Teffilot but also see a clear distinction between breastfeeding and Bamba. Kids running around pumped up on sugar just for “the experience” of being in Shul is my pet peeve, it just makes me crazy.

  5. Since I could daven and keep my kids quiet when they were of nursing age, and I can’t possibly daven with them in shul now (3.5 and 2), I’m very glad I used the last opportunities to daven in shul before motherhood took that opportunity away from me for several years.

  6. That’s great! I also agree that there’s a difference between small children eating and breastfeeding: the main reason that some shuls limit small children eating in shul is, in my opinion, because of the mess (candy wrappers, crumbs, etc), which obviously wouldn’t apply to breastfeeding.
    I’ve only once seen a woman nurse in shul in the US, but here in Israel where nursing in public is more accepted in general, I’ve seen it more. Good for Rav Aviner!

  7. The synagogue in the picture above is beautiful. Where is that?

  8. Good to know! I haven’t gone to shul in ages (my boys are 2 and 3 months), but now I’ll know for when I want to go on an occasion like Simachas Torah, etc.

    On a somewhat related note, I learned that it’s not permitted to daven Shemonah Esrei while holding an infant. How do mothers with nursing babies manage to daven at shul with this prohibition? Thanks!

  9. In the past 9 years, I haven’t been to shul much because I think shul is a place for quiet prayer… not something easily enforced with young children. I learned that BF is completely “mutar” in shul and that stools produced from breastmilk are not problematic. Anytime in the last 9 years that I’ve actually sat in shul I’ve probably breastfed too… not once has a person said a word to me or shown offense. Baruch Hashem.

  10. Mrs Belogski says:

    I have fed a baby while listening to the megillah in shul. ( my husband is the rav and he doesn’t have a problem with it!) it was early in the morning and i was the only woman there, so no-one could see me anyway! otherwise, in general, i have taken my babies to the lobby when i needed to feed. i don’t really take small children to shul, it was only on eg RH for shofar. IMHO small children are better off at home and just going for the last 10 min and kiddush. i can daven better at home too because i don’t have to worry about them running around and disturbing other people, it’s only me they are disturbing! 🙂

  11. It’s about time! There is no question that nursing is a supremely holy act. Both men and women can pray, but only a women can give birth and nourish life from her own body. I hope this ruling will help women feel more comfortable nursing on demand in comfortable locations, not being relegated to chairs in bathrooms!

  12. B”H

    I certainly don’t see any issue with it. It even helps, as a screaming child will no longer be screaming, and thus disturbing everyone’s kevanna.

    Of course, this would also support segregated buses (which I have mixed feelings about), providing an environment in which some women would feel more comfortable nursing. But, that’s another discussion for another time. 😉

    You are certainly correct about the bms of a nursing baby.

  13. Maybe we can get Rav Amar to say that women should nurse if at all possible?

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