In our day, it is clear that many people are uncomfortable with nursing babies. Strangely, it doesn’t seem natural that breasts would be used as mammary glands rather than only as a mechanism of attraction. And, in my assessment, it is “religious” people in our society who are the most offended at the sight of mothers who are nursing their babies.
Our Torah, in a nonchalant way, reminds us that breast feeding is the gold standard. We are told in this week’s parasha that our hero “Avraham held a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. (Gen. 21:8)” According to Rashi (who who relies upon the Talmud, Gittin 75B) Isaac breast fed for 24 months before this weaning party. He was two years old when he stopped nursing! If our matriarch breast feeding her son for two years is shocking to you, realize that the Midrash claims Sarah nursed the babies of many other mothers as well. The great twentieth century Torah luminary Ben Ish Hai rules that we need not be concerned with the sight of nursing breasts, even during times of prayer, “It is permissible to be occupied with words of Torah, etc., at the time of nursing, for at the time of nursing, her breasts are like her hands or her face.”
Our sages give important religious precedence to fully embracing nursing, and modern scientific knowledge confirms this tradition. Medical journals today acknowledge the high benefits of human milk and the psychological advantages that direct nursing from the mother provides. Dr. Dan Brennan on WebMD shares, “Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat -- everything your baby needs to grow… Breastfeeding also lowers your (the mother’s) risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lower your risk of osteoporosis, too.”
So, if you are squeamish around mothers who are using their own bodies to give sustenance to their young ones - work on yourself. Realize that Hashem wants us to embrace breast feeding.