Fasting on Tisha B’Av for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

The 9th of the Jewish month of Av, known as Tisha B’Av, commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. On this most mournful day of the year, Jews are required to fast from sunset until nightfall the following day.

(On a side note, most rabbinic opinions exempt pregnant and nursing women from fasting on the four minor fast days. My husband was surprised to learn that his colleague’s wife, nursing a young baby, was fasting on the 17th of Tammuz.)

Before Yom Kippur last year, I blogged about the opinion of our synagogue’s rabbi requiring pregnant and nursing women to eat and drink in “shiurim” instead of fasting completely on Tisha b’Av and Yom Kippur.  Shiurim are small quantities of food and liquid eaten at regular intervals. The quantities are small enough so that technically, the woman is still considered to be fasting.

Last year’s post also gives tips to help nursing mothers and babies get through the fast safely.

Yet this is still controversial. In response to a published opinion by Rabbi Nachum Rabinovich, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow ruled that barring special circumstances, pregnant and nursing women must fast on Tisha b’Av. Ynet reports:

The Halacha (Jewish law) holds no all-inclusive exemption for pregnant women or those breastfeeding. Each case must be assessed separately.
This is the rule decided upon by the head of the Petach Tikva Hesder Yeshiva Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, right before Tisha B’Av.

In the Halachic sentence [ruling] published in the yeshiva’s website, Rabbi Cherlow negates a general dismissal [exemption] and instead, calls upon women in these situations to better prepare themselves for fasting. The rabbi explained that “the assumption that nowadays women are weaker than they were in the past is not necessarily so, and the medical logic says that in light of the nutrition and medicine that we live with today, the situation is exactly the opposite.”
Thus, he disputes the lenient Halachic position stating that women in these situations must be exempt from fasting in all cases, a stance supported in the recent years by popular rabbis of the religious-Zionist persuasion.
In the book that was recently published by doctor and Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz, the head of the Ma’ale Adumim Hesder Yeshiva, a different view is presented.

According to this Ynet article (Hebrew) about Rabbi Rabinowitz’s book.  women after the fifth month of pregnancy and nursing mothers “should not fast” on Tisha b’Av. The ruling does not apply to Yom Kippur.

In last year’s article I wrote:

Most nursing mothers make more than enough milk, so their babies do well even if the fast causes a drop in supply. The babies usually reverse this by nursing extra the night and day following the fast. However, in my years counseling nursing mothers I have come across a few babies and mothers who suffered terribly by the end of the fast. I just heard a typical example: A mother was home with a toddler and baby. The baby didn’t stop crying, and the mother was in no shape to shlep the kids to shul and ask a rabbi about breaking the fast. Sometimes a mother knows her supply is low or borderline, or she fasts badly in general, so she asks a question in advance about how to handle it. But often, there is no way to predict when the situation will get out of hand. Our rabbi’s approach is one way to avoid this scenario.

Also see: Fasting during Pregnancy on Yom Kippur

Breastfeeding and Fasting on Yom Kippur

Rabbi Elgazi on Fasting During Yom Kippur

Fasting while Breastfeeding or Pregnant when 9 Av is Postponed to Sunday

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Comments

  1. mama o' matrices says:

    Okay, I agree and disagree. Yes. Medically women are as sound today as they were in the past, if not healthier. Our breastfeeding habits are, however, more fragile – a nursing mother for a young baby is more likely to have misinformation that could weaken the supply, etc.
    So I agree, this should be judged on a case by case basis. But I’m not sure I’d chose Rabbi Sherlow as my posek…

  2. Tish’a B’Av is not the same as Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is d’orayta, and Tish’a B’Av is not.

  3. Sorry, what does having better medical care have to do with having no milk to feed your baby by the end of the day? All the medical care in the world is not going to keep up your supply to the end of the fast.

  4. My first stop on the fasting question for Tishe Ba’Av was not my Rav, it was my doctor. Armed with what my doctor said I asked the Rav what the shiur was for eating/drinking on the taanis. The competent authority for deciding if a pregnant/nursing woman can fast is a medical authority first. And my doctor, not Jewish, does not hold with fasting of any kind for a pregnant/nursing mother.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You may want to double check this but I got a pesak that TB is a derabanan do there is no inyun of eating/drinking less then the shiur (as the rabana weren’t messakein bemakom sakanah), less than a shiur would only apply to YK a deoraisah.

  6. Anon- yes, I also was told by my rav that shiurim does not apply to TBA, only YK.

  7. Anon and Abbi are correct. I broke my fast on Tisha B’av six weeks after giving birth to my first. I was really not doing well and my hubby called a rav who said that I should drink orange juice and can drink as much as I need to. Once I’ve broken the fast there was no issue of shiurim.
    This Tisha B’av I am pregnant in my seventh month and my husband will be asking our rav next week about what I should do. Our rav is Rav Nachum Rabinowitz’s son and I’m very interested in hearing what he will say. I heard about R’ Nachum Rabinowitz’s psak a few years ago but he is the only one I know of who is lenient. Most rabbanim who we’ve spoken to over the years have told me that I have to fast when nursing and pregnant. May we all have an easy and meaningful fast.

  8. mother in israel says:

    Trying again to post a comment:
    I didn’t see Rabbi R.’s book, but I’m speculating that he may give a full exemption for 9 Av and require shiurim for YK.
    A columnist in Ynet wrote about how her entire nursing experience was ruined when she tried to fast.
    BB, be-shaah tova! Please keep us posted.

  9. V. interesting. I just asked a shaila about Tisha b’Av since I’m still breastfeeding and I’ll be in my ninth month on Tisha b’Av. Oh yeah, and I just found out I have gestational diabetes… I’m waiting for the answer:) I’ll let you know.

  10. Fasting would diminish the milk supply, but the effect should pass as soon as the mother resumes drinking herself. I nursed while fasting, and while it is not the most pleasant experience, I’ve had some harder fasts when not nursing, depending on the weather and other factors.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “Sorry, what does having better medical care have to do with having no milk to feed your baby by the end of the day? All the medical care in the world is not going to keep up your supply to the end of the fast.:”
    this has changed in two thousand years? I think probably not.

  12. Mrs Belogski says:

    As RivkA said – there’s a lot of difference in halacha between tba and yk. having fasted with my first on tba and with my second – there’s a diffence in the halacha if you are within 30 days of childbirth and she was born on 8th Tammuz (!), we now go with the kabala that if you need to ask, ie you are concerned that you will run into difficulty, you shouldn’t fast on tba. so this year, i’m nursing and not fasting. but i will be fasting in yk. our fifth child was born on yk – i was due on sukkos and our rav said, fast – if you think you are in labour, eat in shiurim and if you know you are in labour, eat normally. the labour began early in the morning, so it wasn’t from fasting, and i began with shiurim and then moved on to real food, before going to the hospital. it was actually harder for my husband, who was fasting! best advice if you are fasting – make sure you are fully hydrated by drinking plenty for a couple of days beforehandd.

    • mominisrael says:

      I have read a convincing article that said the thing about drinking fora couple of days beforehand and being well-hydrated is, well, bunk.

  13. I was listening to Radio Kol Chai yesterday and this exact subject was discussed. It was presented by one of the Rav Eliyahus (Sfardi). I think he is the chief Rabbi of Cholon. In any event, his opinion was that while a nursing mother may not harm herself by nursing, there is the baby to consider. The diminished milk supply does affect the baby. As any mother who fasted and nursed can attest, the milk supply does diminish and it takes a while to build it up again. This included, in my case, at least one restless night. The whole inyan brought me back to the days when I nursed and fasted (no one was lenient): I was told to have a supply of formula on hand “just in case”. These days, I know that was a silly recommendation. A mother who doesn’t give formula really should not have to give it barring emergencies, which a fast is not. Rav Eliyahu commented that people ask Shailos of Rabbanim who may not be competent in this specific area and those Rabbis pasken lechumra. He suggested finding someone who is an expert on pregnancy/nursing/fasting and getting an answer there.
    I got through enough TB and YK fasting and nursing and pg but I wonder if I really had to…. Rav Eliyahu also differentiated between YK and TB, of course.

  14. “I was listening to Radio Kol Chai yesterday and this exact subject was discussed. It was presented by one of the Rav Eliyahus (Sfardi). I think he is the chief Rabbi of Cholon.”

    You are probably thinking of R Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzefat, who sometimes appears on Radio Kol Chai (not sure how often).

  15. glowing_flower says:

    Worst TBA every was nursing a six month old (we had just started solids). I tried every trick to pre-hydrate in the book, but the last couple hours, there was just nothing left. We both cried ourselves to sleep. Fasting pregnant is much easier in my experience, unless you are in the first three months with bad morning sickness.
    In any case, I hope everyone had a meaningful TBA and that we should see Moshiach bimheira.

  16. Leah Peretz says:

    When I was pregnant with my first (2002) my friend told me that the Rav Inon Yona (Sefardi) had psakened that pregnant women in their 9th month are exempt from fasting on TBA. Since I heard that, I haven’t fasted when in my 9th month.
    Fasting when nursing is really frustrating, since I usually don’t have enough milk to stock up and milk was finished in the afternoon of TBA and of YK. Leaving the baby hungry and frustrated. My fourth child never even wanted to touch a bottle so I had a real problem on my hands.
    Another frustrating problem is the fact that the Rabbis are telling us to prehydrate and rest, but who’s taking care of the other kids? My kids are almost 8, 6, almost 5, 2 and am 34 weeks pregnant of #5.

  17. See my commment two or three up about prehydrating. Many rabbis say that the husband should stay home so that the mother can fast.
    Leah, it’s not clear whether you had problems if you just nursed the baby as usual with no bottles?

Trackbacks

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  2. Breastfeeding, Fasting, Shawls, Chassidim, Shidduchim, Introverts, and more. says:

    […] on Monday evening through Tuesday after nightfall. I’ve written several posts on fasting while breastfeeding or pregnant. May we all have a meaningful day and celebrate the rebuilding of the Temple soon. […]

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