Tag Archives: Breastfeeding Policy

A Breastfeeding At Shul Story: Creating A Synagogue Breastfeeding Policy

While I wait for more reviews to come in (if you can, please fill one out here:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1skGeYXiz85Ej5oWCL05uv5Ykf9uNvG08vfrx2–AHLM/viewform   or pass it on to your friends and family)

This is how the clergy at “Bais Abe” in St. Louis (review here)  developed their breastfeeding policy and signage.  This is the story in the words of Maharat Rori Picker Neiss.

“Last summer, someone approached me with a general question as to whether or not I knew of halakhic sources that discussed the permissibility/non-permissibility of nursing in a sanctuary or Beit Midrash. I did not, but I reached out to a number of colleagues to ask them if they knew of any. Most were male Orthodox rabbis, a number of whom had pulpits. Many responded to me to say that they did not know of any particular sources one way or another, but they did not think there was anything wrong with it.

I responded to say that many women do not feel that it would be a comfortable space to nurse in the synagogue in general, let alone in the sanctuary, and so if there were no halakhic sources against it then would they consider putting up signs in their shul saying it was permitted. I received no responses to that email.

So I decided we needed a sign to explicitly state that nursing would be welcome in the shul. I spoke with the rabbi and a few board members and we went through a few iterations of the sign.

The first one was very awkward and said something like “Nursing is welcome in the sanctuary with an appropriate cover.” And I shared it with colleagues who gave me very helpful feedback. Many questions had to do with the cover. As one person very profoundly pointed out, if we do not have a dress code posted anywhere, then why do we need to post a dress code for nursing? If we trust people to make appropriate choices for the shul in general, we should trust them to make appropriate choices with regard to nursing as well.

I also realized I was talking about the sanctuary only, but that I needed to make people comfortable in the whole shul, but also make clear that there were more private spaces available for those who chose.

The attached sign [stay tuned, I’m still figuring out how to get it up here] became the final product, emphasizing first and foremost that the shul was a space that is family-friendly and puts the values of family at our core, and that as part of that there are no areas of the shul unwelcome to nursing, as well as listing options for those who might seek a door with a lock and/or more comfortable seating. We posted the signs in the women’s section, auditorium, balcony and women’s bathroom– all places I thought women might see them and/or hide fearing that they needed to set themselves apart in order to nurse. “