Infants on Shabbat

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Illness

  1. If a child needs a vaporizer to alleviate discomfort (from bronchitis etc.), one may ask a non-Jew to plug it in on Shabbos to ease his pain. While some prohibit adding cold water to a cold water vaporizer,[1] others permit it if you pour it through the spout.[2] If it is a hot water vaporizer one may take previously boiled water from an urn and refill it.[3]
  2. Healthy infants and babies until the age of three (and according to some poskim even older children till the age of six or nine) are also halachically classified as “patients not dangerously ill.”[4] (In the final analysis, it all depends on the strength and maturity of the child.) [5] Therefore, they are permitted to take all forms of medicine, provided, of course, that no Biblical prohibitions are transgressed. [6]
  3. In a case where the child is under three months and appears to be ill, if his temperature is not that high, but merely a notch over 100 degrees, one can still desecrate the Shabbos (call a doctor, drive if a non-Jew cannot be found etc.) as temperature for a newborn can be indicative of something more serious.[7] If time is not of essence one should obviously initially look to engage a non-Jew in any prohibited activity. [8]

Diapering

Diapers

Velcro Diapers

  1. It is completely permitted to use Velcro diapers on Shabbat.[9] The discussion of the poskim in the past about opening and closing diapers was all about diapers with sticky tabs and was a major dispute and not simple. However, today's diapers are generally all made with Velcro, loops and hooks, and aren't any question.

Sticky Tab Diapers

  1. Most authorities permit putting on a diaper on Shabbat by sticking the tabs of the diaper to the diaper.[10] (Also see Tofer).
  2. Nonetheless, one should be careful and open the diaper slowly so that one doesn’t rip it and leave the tabs attached permanently.[11]
  3. There are those who prohibit the use of the flaps to close the diaper when disposing of it, as that will result in a permanent connection.[12] However, there are those who disagree and permit it.[13]
  4. Diapers which have an adhesive that needs to be unfastened and then taped onto the diaper. While it is praiseworthy to be stringent and unfasten them and then refasten them again before Shabbos,[14] one can be lenient if he failed to do so.[15]

Tearing to Separate Flaps

  1. It is permitted to open a diaper on Shabbat even if the flaps are stuck to the back of the diaper and they need to be torn on the perforations to be opened.[16]

Wetness Indicator

  1. One may use a diaper which has a wetness indicator on Shabbat.[17]

Diaper Wipes

  1. The issue of using baby wipes has been widely discussed ever since they've arrived on the market. Some poskim are lenient to use baby wipes if one does it gently and doesn't press down,[18] while others prohibit using diaper wipes entirely and give preference to wetting the baby (with oil, water, "baby shpritz" etc.) and then using a dry tissue to clean the child.[19]
  2. The older baby wipes are made from more similar to paper materials and today they are made from cotton materials.[20] Although this change according to some poskim makes using the baby wipes forbidden, nonetheless, there are some who are still lenient.[21]
  3. Some say that one may use baby wipes to clean a baby if one does it gently and doesn't press down.[22] However, some advise not using baby wipes but rather tissues and water as described in the following halacha.[23]
  4. One should not wet a cloth and then wipe the baby rather the liquid such as water, thin lotion, or oil should be applied to the baby's skin and then wiped with a paper napkin or paper towel and if that's not available then one may use a dry cloth. If one uses a dry cloth then once it gets wet one should be very cautious not to apply pressure when wiping.[24]

Diaper Rashes

  1. In the event that the child requires cream for a diaper rash (i.e. Desitin, Balmax etc.), one may squeeze it out onto the affected area and allow the child to smear it on himself via his movement.[25]

Feeding a Baby

Nursing and Pumping

  1. According to Ashkenazim, it is only permissible to nurse on Shabbat if the infant feeds directly from the mother. A nursing mother who is experiencing pain may express excess milk if it goes directly to waste and is not collected in a cup or container.[26]
  2. According to Sephardim, a woman who is nursing and the baby doesn't want to nurse, to avoid a lot of discomfort it is permissible to express the milk but it should go to waste immediately, such as nursing into a disgusting cup or onto the ground.[27]
  3. While it is permitted to nurse a child on Shabbos a woman may not pump extra milk to have for a later time as she would be transgressing the melacha of mefarek (extracting)[28]. However in the event that the woman is in pain she may express her milk directly into a sink[29]. In the event that this is not practical, the Poskim permit one to use a pump providing that there is soap or vinegar in the bottle that would immediately render the milk useless[30]. She should then pour the milk directly into the sink when she is done. If she does not have a manual pump and is in significant pain she may even ask a non-Jew to turn on an electric pump for her[31]. If she knows prior to Shabbos that she will need to express milk due to pain and she does not have a manual pump, she would be permitted, on Friday, to set her pump to turn on with a Shabbos clock.[32]

Heating and Cooking Foods

  1. With regard to preparing food for a child one should be careful to avoid any shailos of bishul (cooking). Therefore when preparing a bottle of (powdered or liquid) formula one should first pour in the hot water and then put in the formula.[33] This is assuming that the formula has been previously cooked to a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. One is allowed to place a cold bottle of milk inside a cup of boiling hot water, however one should try to make sure that the entire bottle does not go under the water in order to avoid hatmana (insulating) according to all Poskim.[34]

Mashing Foods

  1. One may mash a banana or other soft vegetables for a child to eat on Shabbat.[35] See Losh#Practical_Examples for more details.

Baby Bottles

  1. One may clean a bottle with a bottle brush providing that the bristles are spread apart[36] and, l'chatchila, the brush should be designated just for Shabbos use.[37] See Dosh#Using_a_Sponge_or_Brush_on_Shabbat for more about using brushes on Shabbat. One is reminded to only use cold water from the sink to avoid Bishul.[38]

Cribs & Strollers

  1. It is permitted to open the hood of a baby carriage or stroller if it was attached from before Shabbat, however, if it was attached on Shabbat one may not spread it on Shabbat. Once the hood is open it is permitted to add a temporary additional roof but one should start to add to that roof from the side which is already covered (by the hood). [39]
  2. While R' Moshe Feinstein ZT"L[40] held that the hood needs to be opened one Tefach (approx. 3.75 inches) prior to Shabbos, many other Poskim[41] permitted it no matter what, claiming that there is no issue of Assiyas Ohel (making a covering).

Assembling Playpens and Cribs

Playpen

  1. Some sat that it is permitted to set up a baby’s play pen only if (1) the parts aren’t held tightly and (2) the parts are frequently opened and closed. However, if the parts fit tightly or it isn’t opened and closed frequently it’s forbidden. The pieces are considered held loosely if one isn’t considered if the parts move around where they are joined. [42] However, some permit it if it is used frequently. [43]
  2. It is forbidden to cover a play pen with a blanket to protect it from the sun or bugs. However if the blanket was spread over the pen from before Shabbat at least a tefach in width (not including the part which was rolled up) then one may spread it out fully on Shabbat. One should make sure not to remove the blanket totally rather leave at least a Tefach spread out. [44]
  3. As long as there are no screws, bolts (etc.) one may set up and dismantle a playpen, pac-n-play or carriage[45]. For carriages that come with a separate bassinet (i.e. BabyJogger, Bugaboo, Rock Star etc.), one may switch them back and forth without any Halachic concerns as long as no screws are being used. One would also be allowed to add another seat to a carriage (i.e. Phil & Ted), providing that this is done on an "everyday basis", as it would then be considered the "usual mode of use"[46].

Baby Basket

  1. It is permitted to adjust the height of a baby’s basket if (1) the parts aren’t held tightly and (2) the parts are frequently opened and closed. However, if the parts fit tightly or it isn’t opened and closed frequently it’s forbidden. The pieces are considered held loosely if one isn’t considered if the parts move around where they are joined. [47]

Beds

  1. It is permitted to spread a bed sheet even if it hangs over the side of the bed.[48]
  2. It is forbidden to put together a crib on Shabbat.[49]

Baby Monitors

  1. Some permit using a baby monitor on Shabbat even if the baby's voice and sometimes the parent's voice when in the baby's room is transmitted to another device for the parents to hear.[50]

Baby Swing

  1. There is a dispute amongst the Poskim whether or not one may wind up a baby swing on Shabbos. While R' Moshe Feinstein ZT"L[51] prohibits it on the account that it is similar to winding a watch that has stopped (which is prohibited), there are many others who are lenient, as unlike a watch, when a swing is not in motion it is not considered "broken", so winding it up is not considered "fixing" it.[52] See Electricity_on_Shabbat#Watches and Makeh Bpatish and for more details.

Credits

Special thanks to Rabbi Heshy Kahn for his contribution to this article.

Sources

  1. Minchas Yitzchok 7:28, Be'er Moshe 6:51
  2. Sefer Hilchos Shabbos 8: footnote 64, B'shem R' Moshe Feinstien ZT”L
  3. Shalmai Yehudah pg. 44
  4. Chazon Ish, O.C. 59:3, Rav S.Z. Auerbach in Nishmas Avraham 328:54, and Rav Y.S. Elyashiv in Eis Laledes, pg. 57, quote the age of 2-3. Tzitz Eliezer 8:15-12 quotes ages of 6. Minchas Yitzchak 1:78 quotes age of 9.
  5. The Weekly Halachah Discussion (Rabbi Doniel Neustadt)
  6. Rama, O.C. 328:17. Note, however, that not all of a baby’s needs are exempt from the prohibition against medication; see, for instance, Mishna Brurah 328:131. See Tehillah l’David 328:24 and Minchas Yitzchak 4:124 who deal with this difficulty
  7. Igros Moshe O.C. 1:129
  8. Rabbi Heshy Kahn (What's Doing, Greater Connecticut, 3/3/11)
  9. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchato 15:79, Ish Matzliach OC 340:14
  10. Minchat Yitzchak 5:39 (Dayan Weiss) is strict on diapers. Sh”t Bear Moshe 6:14 is lenient about using pampers on Shabbat since it’s only a temporary connection. Sh”t Tzitz Eliezer 16:6 is lenient because it isn’t not even considered temporary. 39 Melachos (Rabbi Ribiat; pg 813) permits since the tabs are made to be used that way. Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen; pg 212-3) and Chazon Ovadia v. 5 p. 85 are lenient. See http://www.dailyhalacha.com/Display.asp?ClipDate=7/25/2005.
  11. Sh”t Yacheve Daat 6:23
  12. Rabbi Belsky as quoted in Halachically Speaking 3:14 https://www.thehalacha.com/wp-content/uploads/Vol3Issue14.pdf 39 Melachos (Rav Ribiat; pg 814), Menuchat Ahava 2:15:11, and Rabbi Mansour (http://www.dailyhalacha.com/Display.asp?ClipDate=7/25/2005) hold that it is forbidden to wrap up the diaper after it is used since the connection will remain permanent.
  13. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach quoted in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata ch. 35 fnt. 67 and ch. 15 fnt. 233 explained that leaving something connected until it is destroyed if one doesn't actually care about it staying connected isn't considered as though one connected it permanently. Therefore, it is permitted to wrap up the diaper before throwing it out so that it doesn't open up and become a mess.
  14. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 16:81. Hence when putting on the diaper you would not be "ripping" something that was "sewn" for over twenty four hours.
  15. Sha'arim Metzuyanim L'Halacha 80:45
  16. 39 Melachot v. 3 p. 846 writes that the flaps are only connected to the back of the diaper in the cutting process and because of the friction they are connected. The same is true of the packaging process. Since they are only connected temporarily it isn't koreah to tear it apart (see Mishna Brurah 340:45 regarding pages stuck together). Similarly, it isn't makeh bpatish since it already resembled a diaper when it was cut even before it was completed. Therefore, tearing these flaps isn't creating a diaper.
  17. Shimirat Shabbat K'hilchata 15:88. The reason being that one does not care about the color, even though it is convenient since the main function of the diaper is for its intended purpose and not for design it would be a davar sh'eno mitkaven.
  18. Rabbi Heshy Kahn (What's Doing, Greater Connecticut, 3/3/11) quoting Rabbi Moshe Plutchok based on the Har Tzvi and R' Shlomo Zalmen Aurbauch Zt”l, Rabbi Mansour on Dailyhalacha.com
  19. Minchat Yitzchak 10:25, Shevet Halevi 8:59, 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 351-3). Nishmas Shabbos 233 requires the wipes to be squeezed out prior to Shabbos to the extent that if someone touches the wipe he won't be able to moisten something else.
  20. Wikipedia entry "Wet Wipe" describes some of the history of baby wipes. It points out that originally wipes were paper clothes and today more of them are made with cotton materials. For example, Pampers wipes are made from cellulose, which is 90% of cotton, and polypropylene, which is synthetic. See also, Target wipes which are made from cotton fiber.
  21. Yalkut Yosef 2 p 90 writes that it is muter to use a diaper wipe on Shabbat. But Yalkut Yosef 2 p. 688 in a later edition he limits it to paper wipes and not cloth ones. Chazon Ovadia Shabbat v. 4 p. 148-154 says all baby wipes are permitted on Shabbat. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 14:37 says only paper ones are muter and not cloth ones. Har Tzvi 190 is lenient about using diaper wipes made from paper. Igrot Moshe 2:70 as understood by Rivevot Efraim 6:194:3 writes that paper wipes are permitted. Chazon Ovadia writes four reasons to say why it is derabbanan:
    1. It is only a derabbanan form of disha since the paper isn't meant to be squeezed out and it is like pickles and not olives (Shabbat 145a).
    2. Also, the water goes to waste (Meor Hashabbat v. 2 p. 522 quoting Rav Shlomo Zalman).
    3. Also, it isn't gidulei karka (Rambam Shabbat 8:7). Disha is only bgedulei karka. Even if it is made with cotton it still can be called non-gedulei karka since it is so processed and it is like panim chadashot (chatom sofer 6:81 by ketamim on toilet paper).
    4. Also, it is less than a shiur of a grogeret making the isur only derabbanan (Chacham Tzvi 86). He isn't sure to use this factor because perhaps there's no shiur for sechita in this form which is normal just to squeeze out a tiny bit (Chazon Ovadia p. 150).
    • If it is only derabbanan or a double derabbanan a pesik reisha is muter (even if it is nicha leh). Also it could be that we matir derabbanans for child who is like a choleh shein bo sakana.
  22. Yalkut Yosef 302:31 based on Har Tzvi OC 1:190, Rabbi Mansour on Dailyhalacha.com
  23. 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 353)
  24. 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 351)
  25. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 33:14, 39 Melachos (v. 3, p. 922)
  26. 39 Melachos (vol 2, pg 356)
  27. Yalkut Yosef (Otzar Dinim L'isha 28:9)
  28. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 328:34, Biur Halacha s.v. V’Tineck
  29. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 330:8
  30. Taz 320:12, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 36:20 footnote 61
  31. S.A. 328:17
  32. Rabbi Heshy Kahn (What's Doing, Greater Connecticut, 3/3/11) quoting Rabbi Yitzchok Berkowitz, Shlita. Although if one can secure for themselves a manual pump that would be more Halachically preferable as Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was under the impression that by using the electric pump you are causing the motor to work harder. Therefore even when one would rely on this leniency one should secure the pump onto oneself prior to the time that the machine is set to go on.
  33. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 1:49 footnote 138, Shaar Hatzion 318:96
  34. Taz 258:1, Mishna Brurah 258:2, Shaar Hatzion 258:5
  35. Yechave Da'at 5:27
  36. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 12:footnote 45
  37. Mishna Brurah 303:87, Igros Moshe O.C. 2:88
  38. Rabbi Heshy Kahn (What's Doing, Greater Connecticut, 3/3/11)
  39. Chazon Ish OC 52:6 holds that it is permitted to open and close the roof of a baby carriage and it isn't considered like creating an ohel to protect from the sun. His reasoning is that it since it is attached to the carriage opening it is like extending a preexisting ohel. Also, it is like opening and closing a door which is built to do that. See Rama 626:3 regarding opening and closing a shlock for the sukkah and Mishna Brurah 315:27 regarding shtenders. In that piece Chazon Ish is disagreeing with the Nodeh Beyehuda OC 2:30 regarding umbrellas. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 24:13 agrees and is lenient. Rav Ovadia Yosef in Chazon Ovadia (Shabbat v. 5 p. 302) writes that one should be strict for those are strict. Yalkut Yosef 315:12 quotes those who are strict and concludes that it is proper to leave it a tefach (excluding the folded part) open before Shabbat and extend it or fold it up on Shabbat.
  40. Igros Moshe O.C. 4:105:3
  41. Chazon Ish O.C. 52:6, Be'er Moshe 6:87. Rav Schachter (Highlights of Melachos Shabbat Part 2, min 61) noted this dispute between the Chazon Ish and Rav Moshe and seemed to prefer the Chazon Ish.
  42. Or Letzion (vol 2, 27:1)
  43. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 24:23
  44. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 24:9
  45. Be'er Moshe 3:85
  46. Rabbi Heshy Kahn (What's Doing, Greater Connecticut, 3/3/11) heard from R' Plutchok Shlita
  47. Or Letzion (vol 2, 27:1)
  48. Mishna Brurah 315:31, Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 24:25
  49. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 24:23
  50. Halichot Olam v, 4 p. 198 cited by Tiferet 328:64. This is elaborated and reiterated on halachayomit.co.il.
  51. Sefer Tiltulei Shabbos 1: footnote 36
  52. Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 17:39