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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 first.
  3. 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:
    • By Rashi's reasoning, the bottle is sealed, so the milk will not touch anything meaty.
    • 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.
    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.
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 further details.
  6. 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.
  7. Remember, these are just guidelines. Every child is different. Consult with your rabbi for advice.

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