Contemporary relevance of meineket
16 January, 2004
If a woman today stops nursing her baby after one year, why is she halakhically considered a meineket for two years? Do you have any medical justification for treating a woman who is no longer breastfeeding as a breastfeeder? I realize often it takes a while for the period to regulate again, so perhaps that could be a justification. But what about a woman who does totally resume a regular period so that she is pretty much certain when she will get her next period. Shouldn't she separate from her husband an onah before she is actually expecting her period?
The Talmud explains that a woman has the status of a meineket (nursing mother) for twenty-four months post partum because she has not fully recovered from childbirth. Even if she is not actually nursing her baby, she is still considered a meineket.
It is likely that women in Talmudic times resumed menstruation much later than is typical in our society. Thus, the leniencies granted to women for two full years post partum do not seem entirely logical to us. However, since the laws of veset are rabbinic in origin, new stringencies are not imposed in this situation.
The practical implications of the meineket status are actually quite limited. A meineket who has resumed menstruation does separate from her husband when expecting her period. However, she does not establish a regular cycle (veset kavua). Please see Laws of Niddah for the Breastfeeding Woman for a more detailed explanation.
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