Following my previous post about breastfeeding, I decided to go online and dig up some information about breastfeeding in the Jewish Law. Most people in my surroundings are religious, so hopefully, negative comments about breastfeeding might be stopped if I present some sources connected with our tradition.
Breastfeeding was always seen as positive in the Jewish tradition. There are several mentions of breastfeeding in the Scriptures, all in a very positive light. One example is Hannah's lament about her breasts being unused to nurse a baby, while this is obviously what they were created for.
The standard time of breastfeeding is two years. Some even say more. But certainly nowhere does it say to stop at one year or less. This is something people, even religious Jews, often ignore these days. A few days ago, I read a letter from a woman to a rabbi. She asked for advice on how to wean her one-year-old so that he could be put in daycare. The rabbi said, "Our sages recommended breastfeeding for two years, but obviously, these days it's alright to stop after one year." Why, though? Of course there is more food, and a baby (thankfully) is in no danger of starvation if he isn’t breastfed. But there are still many perks to breastfeeding beyond one year, some connected directly to health, some emotional. Mother's milk is still nutritious and immunologically beneficial.
Then the rabbi proceeded to giving the woman advice to go on a trip for a week, after which her son would supposedly wean automatically. I was shocked to read that. How cruel. Even if a child is in daycare, he can still be nursed mornings and evenings. It might prompt weaning, of course, but it won't be as abrupt and traumatic for the child and mother as just leaving for a week.
This is something I really don't get, this all-or-nothing approach. For some reason, I have noticed, many people seem to think that babies are supposed to go from nursing around the clock straight to being weaned completely. Not so. I've had people ask me, "your baby can survive without your milk now, why don't you wean her?" Weaning is supposed to be gradual, like most processes in our life. A child doesn't just start running one day after lying still in his crib. He sits, crawls, pulls himself up, makes a first tentative step… it's just the same with weaning. It's a long way from the time a baby tastes his first foods until the time he is ready to relinquish mama's breast. Why be so impatient?