Thursday, October 12, 2006

rabbinic bra-gazing, part II

A reader sent this to me, and it's a pretty good point in response to this grump. Comments are mine, in non-itals:

A reader of your blog might misunderstand the pumping issue on shabbas. (Shabbas = Jewish sabbath)
So here are a few comments FYI:
Generally speaking you can't use an electriic or hand held or even hand express on shabbas.
Electricity is one thing. The malacha
('malacha' means work, which is forbidden on the sabbath) is squeezing (apart from the electricity issue). It can only be done on shabbas if a mother's health is threatened ,especially soon after delivery when she is still considered to be in danger. Later she is not considered to be in Sakanah. (Sakanah = danger)
She can't choose to pump even with a shabbas clock just because of the inconvenience of leaving her guests at the shabbas table to nurse.
The issue of throwing out the milk is to avoid getting hanaah (pleasure) from a labor done on shabbas. I and some rabbis argue that the infant needs the milk so it should be given to him/her. However, I don't think that would hold if there is lots of other breast milk available or if this is a a healthy toddler, for example. So, the health of the baby has to be considered despite the local culture that make a medical equivalent of formula with breast milk. The science indicates that there are risks of formula, especially to the newborn.
It is important to distinguish between newborn or an at risk (allergic family history) baby from another in this discussion.

Right, ho then. Okay, so in the instance being described by the aforementioned rabbinic person, the child is indeed an infant. However, how far from delivery does the mother need to be for her not to be in 'sakanah?' A woman can get mastitis from not pumping, should she pump, for months after delivery - according to my limited understanding. And, yes, while it's one thing to say that an infant's health requires breastmilk, it's another to say that you won't defrost the frozen pumped milk because you want to give them fresh. Or you won't give them formula because you have milk.

Unless, of course, as this commentator points out, your child has allergies, in which case your milk is miles and away safer than formula, thanks to the cushioning immunoglobulins in the breastmilk, easing the passage of potential allergens through the kid's system. (Without these, the immune system could be triggered, creating a response to the foreign proteins, and leaving you with a right PIA.) And unless your child is medically fragile - particularly immunologically speaking - in which case the antibodies in the breastmilk are supporting the immune system. And unless - oh, heavens me, I could go on, but the bottom line is that there are any number of exceptions, and I don't know nearly enough instances of rabbis respecting those exceptions and ruling in favor of protecting the nursing mother-baby relationship.

But I do hope that they are exist. Maybe rabbis are quietly, secretly, ruling to protect the mother, protect the child, and Rabbi Irksome is a lone cog, wailing in the wilderness? Somehow, I'm skeptical. I suspect my skepticism is because these rulings, if they are being made, are quiet. I've never met another young mother who knew that you could use an electric breastpump on shabbat, let alone another who knew that there are circumstances in which you can use the pumped milk for the baby.

Then again, I rarely meet other mothers who don't believe that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt. Or who manage to extract adequate help and support from the sea of well-meaning and improperly educated people available. But that is, perhaps, another story.

Either way, this fellow isn't talking halacha (Judaic law). As I said to Precision Blogger, he's talking marital counseling with the voice of rabbinic authority. Which, in its own way, is worse. You can argue legalistically with a legal ruling. You can't extract the authority from someone who is flapping his mouth...but not overtly exercising his position as a rabbinic figure.

Irritating but true. And there I leave it.
P.S. and in case you guys think the docs have got it right and the rabbis have it wrong, check this out: the latest word on c-sections. Thanks to Doulicia for the write-up. Sigh. We have all so very much to learn, a thought that I find alternately comforting and infuriating.

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