Breastfeeding and Judaism:

Breastfeeding is valued by Jewish tradition. The Talmud discusses breastfeeding duration in a number of contexts and in most cases assumes a duration of 24 months (Ketuvot 60a, b) The Shulkhan Arukh codifies a minimum of two years (Even Haezer 143:8) and a maximum of five years (Yore Deah 81:7) Maimonides recommends breastfeeding in his compilation of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah LeRambam (Gerushin 11:26) .

Age five is considered the upper limit for nursing in Jewish law. The mother is advised to begin on the left side, “close to the heart.”

According to the midrashic commentary Moses refused to nurse from an Egyptian nursemaid, so the biblical text has Pharaoh’s daughter sending for a Jewish one. The nursemaid turns out to be none other than Yocheved, Moses’ own mother.

The rabbis recognized that without the early influence of Yocheved, Moses could not grow up to become the modest, compassionate, and dedicated leader who rescued the Jews from slavery and turned them into a nation that rejected Egyptian immorality.

Is Public Breastfeeding Immodest?

While Judaism recognizes the importance of breastfeeding in nurturing children, with the mother as the primary spiritual influence in the early years,  Jewish law requires women to dress modestly under all circumstances including during breastfeeding.

Mother's Milk, Mother's Faith"I swear that I stilled and silenced my soul, like a suckling child ("gamul" in Hebrew) at his mother's side, like the suckling child is my soul. Let Israel hope to G‑d, from this time forth and forever (Psalms 131: 2-3)."

The Midrash and commentators on this verse explain that just as the suckling child is totally and completely dependent on his mother, so too is man dependant on G‑d. Breast milk and its composition changes as the baby grows to perfectly fit the child's needs.

Other commentaries concur with the translation of the Hebrew word gamul as a suckling child, but adds that this word in Hebrew is cognate with the word gomel, to perform kindness, for the mother does a great kindness to the child by supplying it with her milk.

It's hard to acknowledge that things are not in our control. Nursing a child teaches us that everything that's supposed to come really does come, but only at the right time does its arrival actually fulfill one's needs. The mother supplies her child with the perfect nutrition.

The commentator Radak writes that the word referred to here is really a child who has already been weaned as the Torah refers to the word in several places. A weaned child is somewhat independent and yet still hovers close to its mother for security, comfort, and love.