Monday, February 1, 2010


I just completed the breastfeeding class requirement for DONA certification. Yay! I was planning to attend an in-person class, which are often offered in conjunction with the birth doula class, but I just discovered that there is a free online option, called the "breastfeeding basics class." You simply register at and read through the seven different sections on childbirth. There is a pre- and post-evaluation, in the form of a short multiple-choice quiz, for each section. You print and save your evaluation score upon completion of each section as documentation for the certification. Taking an online class might seem easier, but actually the in-person course is three hours long, and it took me longer than three hours to finish this one.

I really enjoyed taking it; I learned so much about breastfeeding. The course dispels many widespread misconceptions about breastfeeding. For example, many women feel incapable of breastfeeding. They are afraid that they won't be able to produce enough milk, or they think that because their sister had trouble breastfeeding, they will too. In reality, any amount of breast milk is better than none for the infant--and breastfeeding problems are not hereditary. Usually the mother just needs more guidance if she is having trouble; she may be feeding in a bad position, not feeding often enough, or not soothing her breasts properly.

The course also tackled the controversial issue of breastfeeding in public. Even though the practice is legally protected in 47 states, breasts are so sexualized that people feel uncomfortable around women who are breastfeeding, and the women sometimes feel embarrassed. The course recommended assuring the woman that breastfeeding is legal and important for the baby. You can also suggest the woman find a discrete area and use a blanket to cover her breast if the she feels more comfortable that way.

Orthodox Jewish women, among other women, adhere to strict standards of modesty (tzniut), so I began to wonder what the halakhic (Jewish legal) view was on breastfeeding in public. I did a quick Google search out of curiosity. I am no expert on halacha (Jewish law), but it appears that breastfeeding in public is fine as long as the mother covers herself with a blanket. Now, even though it seems to be halakhically permissible (at least according to some people?), it still makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and women are sometimes afraid to do it. The really heated debate, though, concerns whether a woman should be allowed to breastfeed in the synagogue. Some feel that the woman's access to religion is at stake, but some people feel strongly that it disrupts everyone else trying to pray, that it is immodest to do in a sanctuary, or that it shouldn't be allowed because eating is not allowed in a sanctuary. A "mother in Israel" addresses the issue of tznius and breastfeeding on her blog. "Orthomom" discusses a Conservative ruling that women may breastfeed in the sanctuary.

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