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Kashrut Issues in Feeding Your Baby and Raising Your Children
by Rabbi Dovid Bendory, I Adar 5765 (February 2005)
Congratulations — your baby is ready to start eating table foods! Does your
baby need to separate milk and meat? What if s/he requires a bottle after meals
for good nutrition? Here are some guidelines for handling the kashrut
issues that arise when there is a baby in the house:
- Breast milk is kosher and pareve. The reason is that only the milk of
animals we eat is "milk" for kashrut purposes. (In simple terms, milk of
a non-kosher animal is not kosher, just like the animal it came from, but a
person is not an animal.) You can mix breast milk with cereal in whatever bowl
matched what the rest of the family is eating.
- IY"H, as your baby grows you will come to feed your baby both meat
and dairy products. You should not feed these to your baby at the same time (and
you certainly may not cook them together). However, it is permitted to feed your
baby milk after meat if this is essential for his or her nutrition. So once she
is 1 and can start taking milk from a bottle or cup, or if she drinks formula
with a dairy hechsher, and that milk or formula is or becomes a
replacement for breast milk, she can have it after a meat meal. If you are
giving it to your baby in her high chair, just clear away the meat tray
- I hold that it is permissible for mom or dad to sit at a table where meat is
being served and feed the baby milk in a bottle. Note that normally there are
restrictions that forbid having milk and meat at the table at the same time.
However, a baby's bottle is different:
Note that this is a kula (leniency) that not everyone would accept. Some
parents simply move their chair away from the table so that it is out of reach.
Check with your rabbi if you aren't sure what to do.
- By Rashi's reasoning, the bottle is sealed, so the milk will not touch
- By the Ran's reasoning, no parent I know has ever drunk milk from the baby's
bottle, so there is no chance that you are going to eat it by accident.
Also note that this kula only applies to a bottle with a nipple on
it — in other words, a bottle that doesn't spill or leak — and it
only applies with a baby who isn't apt to throw the bottle around or spit milk
out, etc. It certainly does not apply to a cup of milk, and I also wouldn't
allow older siblings to give the baby a milk bottle at a meat table unless they
are old enough that I am sure they won't drink from the bottle themselves out of
curiosity, that they won't shake the bottle around (which may cause it to emit
drops of milk), etc. Also, "sippy cups" generally leak and drip, so I would be
strict with those as well.
- What about the baby's high chair tray? Do you need separate trays for milk
and meat? In our home, we only put cold foods onto the tray. (Certainly the
baby's food is below yad soledet bo and it is more likely room
temperature.) So we consider the baby's tray to be pareve for the baby and
simply wash it well in between milk and meat. However, mom & dad need to be
more strict and should not eat off the baby's tray. Note that some would
consider this approach to be a lenient opinion and would require separate trays.
Check with your rabbi.
Note that there are some issues with preparing baby's foods on shabbos
— warming bottles, mixing cereals, etc. I suggest signing up for the
excellent Shabbos Kitchen course
offered by The Shema Yisrael Torah
Network. Alternatively, you can contact me for
- As your baby grows into a child, you will need to begin teaching him or her
to separate milk and meat. This doesn't really start until the child is old
enough to understand the concepts of "meat" and "dairy," generally at around age
4 or so. Until then, you can allow milk after meat without waiting, though
certainly you should not allow them at the same time. Once your child is old
enough to understand, you should gradually increase the waiting time based on
the child's understanding. Here are some guidelines to help you:
- A 4-year-old can understand that meat and milk need to be separate. If your
child nutritionally needs milk, a brief waiting period of 15 minutes after meat
is sufficient in order to teach the child. If the child doesn't need the dairy
for nutritional purposes — for example, s/he wants some ice cream —
try to teach the child wait longer. But there is no reason to wait more than one
hour. In raising children, we want to instill a love for Torah and mitzvot. If
the child doesn't understand, there is no reason to force the child to wait,
lest s/he will come to resent keeping kosher. In addition, until the child is
old enough to understand the concept of time — generally around 5 or 6
— there is no difference between waiting 1 hour and waiting 6 hours; both
are simply "later."
- A kindergarten child should be able to regularly wait a half-hour.
- A first grader should be able to wait an hour.
- A second grader should be able to wait at least two hours.
- Gradually increase the waiting time up to your family's standard.
- Remember, these are just guidelines. Every child is different. Consult with
your rabbi for advice.
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