When I received an email from a distressed mother, criticized for nursing in shul, I assumed she lived in the US. Israelis tend to respect nursing mothers. But when I asked for permission to post, the mother said I should call her “Nursing in the Negev.”
Nursing in the Negev (NN) brought her baby to shul on RoshHashanah. When the baby got hungry, NN brought her into a room adjacent to the women’s section, with an open door. NN had been told by two former nursing mothers that that room was fine for nursing. But two young female shul members interrupted their own prayers to accost NN and insist she nurse in the bathroom. NN wrote looking for halachic sources permitting a woman to nurse her baby in the synagogue, in the presence of other women. The shul has no rabbi.
The incident ruined NN’s own prayers, and she is dreading Yom Kippur. She plans to stay in her seat and nurse the baby in a sling. When a mother goes into another room she calls much more attention to herself, especially if the baby is already fussy. And a sling is so discreet, that no one will be sure she’s actually nursing.
How sad that NN needs to waste energy thinking about how to avoid another incident, instead of simply enjoying her baby and the holidays. By next year her baby will be a toddler and she probably won’t be able to bring her into shul for more than a few minutes.
I still haven’t answered the question about whether it is okay for women to nurse in shul. NN doesn’t need to find sources allowing it; the other women need to find sources forbidding it. They won’t find any.
I suspect that more than discomfort with nursing is at play, as NN wrote that she had been in this shul for only a year. Women who respect her would not have attacked her like that. I suggest pretending that nothing happened. If they bring it up again, she should simply ask them what rabbi they consulted and change the subject.
Update: My response to comments.