Tag Archives: Nursing At Shul Story

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. “

A Breastfeeding At Shul Story: Creating A Nursing Room From Thin Air!

For a short change of pace, I’m sharing the story of how one couple and their new baby went outside the box to find a way to make breastfeeding possible and comfortable in their synagogue.   They are staying anonymous by their own request.

 “It all started when my husband asked me before yom tov if i wanted to come to shul, and I replied, well, where would I feed the baby?   A few friends, rebbetzins and trips to IKEA and Buy Buy Baby later, voila; the nursing room was born!”

The story, of course, is more complicated and more interesting than that.  As with many synagogues, there is little unused spae just waiting around to be used.  In fact, the only place that was suitable for the room (neither very public,  nor a closet) was the mikvah waiting room. So every shabbos, the nursing room is set up and then Saturday night everything is put away again, so that when you walk into the waiting room, you would never guess that it was also a nursing room.

The nursing room’s secret identity was carefully arranged, so as to be sensitive to the women who are coming to the mikvah. Mikvah night can be very challenging to those who are having a hard time conceiving, and having reminders of breastfeeding aka fertility in those women’s faces would be an insensitive and painful experience.   So they put in extra work to be sensitive to Everyone’s needs.  It takes only a few minutes to set up and take apart.

The room is furnished with  a changing table, a changing pad, and diaper genie, two comfy chairs and nursing stools, boppie pillows and nursing covers.  To help mothers with more than one child, they also provided a carpet with a racetrack design with some toy cars, a dolly with a small stroller, and some books.  Everything but the chairs goes into a closet during the week.  The room is set up so that more than one mother can use it at once, so that no one has to worry that their baby will be hungry and they won’t have access to a space to feed them.  The total cost was “only a few hundred dollars”.

For the family who created (generating both the idea and the funds) the nursing room, the best part is that women really use it.  Having the room available has increased the number of women coming to shul, especially young orthodox mothers with one or more small children, who usually get left out of ritual and services.