Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Nursing strike and pumping on Shabbat

28 July, 2014


First of all, thank you very much for having this forum.

I work full time so I'm unfortunately away from my 7 month old baby during the day and am pumping breastmilk for him while I'm at work. Until now he was happy nursing while I'm home at night and on the weekends, but this past Shabbos (and Sunday) he either wouldnt nurse for more than a minute or was refusing altogether. I feel strongly about providing him with breastmilk, as I did for my other children, which leaves me with a few issues⁄questions as to how to manage Shabbos feedings.

1) In general, what halachic considerations are there for expressing milk on Shabbos if my baby won't nurse? He's otherwise a very healthy and happy baby.

2) I'm have great difficulty expressing milk without my electric pump – I'm not responding to my manual medela pump (I've tried a few)and hand expression has been painful. Is it ever permissible to set a timer for my electric pump or is that really out of the question? The other issue is my own lactation concerns – I'm paranoid about not emptying fully because I have a history of mastitis. This past Shabbos left me with a few clogged ducts, which is really challenging to work through without the help of a nursing baby: I also have to work at keeping up my supply since I'm so reliant on pumping during the week.

Thank you again, I'm really saddened by my baby's nursing strike but I'd feel better at least having halachic guidance on what I can or cannot do to get through Shabbos.


Based on what you write, you may pump over Shabbat/Yom Tov to feed your baby and avoid infection. You may use an electric pump, and it should be set up before Shabbat with a timer. To avoid halachic problems associated with its use, you should have the pump on your breast before the timer goes on.

Using the breastmilk that you pumped is a greater halachic problem. However, in light of the age of your baby and the rabbinic nature of the prohibition (if you pump as above), it would be permissible to give the milk to your son for the meals of that day.

Once your baby is at the point that he eats solids well, and you can supplement that with milk pumped during the week, you should no longer use the milk pumped on Shabbat. You should add a bit of soap to the bottle/container into which you pump to make the milk unusable. 

Please feel free to get back to us with any further questions.


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