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Preparing a Bottle

Rinsing the Bottle

  1. Sechitah [squeezing]. When rinsing a baby’s bottle before preparing it, one must make sure not to do sechitah. Therefore, it is assur to clean it with a wet cloth or sponge (שו”ע סי’ ש”כ סי”ז).
  2. Bottle brush. However, one may use a plastic brush designed for cleaning baby bottles if there are spaces between the bristles since the bristles themselves are not absorbent and water does not gather between them (שש”כ פי”ב סט”ו). One may use any type of brush to clean a bottle if it is full of water since there is no sechitah underwater (ארחות שבת פי”ג הע’ צ”ט).
  3. Drying. One should not use a towel to dry a bottle with a narrow opening, as it is forced into the bottle and some water that it absorbs while drying will get squeezed out (מ”ב סי’ ש”ב סקנ”ח, ביאה”ל שם ד”ה משום).

Measuring the Water and Formula Powder

  • Water. If there is no need for a specific, precise amount of water, lechatchilah, due to the issur of measuring on Shabbos (שו”ע סי’ ש”ו ס”ז), it is better to approximate when pouring in water, using the markings on the bottle, than to add or remove water until there is the perfect amount. However, if there is a need for an exact amount, e.g., for a premature or sick baby, one may be precise with his measurements since it is considered measuring for a mitzvah purpose (שו”ת אור לציון ח”ב פכ”ה תשובה ב’).
  • Formula. Also, one may use the measuring spoon that comes with the formula to obtain the desired amount. If it is not necessary, one should not measure with exactness, e.g., by using a finger to level out the heaping powder; he should simply fill the spoon approximately to the top.

Heating the Bottle

  • Kli rishon. One may not heat a bottle with milk or formula on Shabbos in a kli rishon, i.e., in a pot of water on a flame (שו”ע סי’ שי”ח סי”ג), even if he will remove the bottle before it reaches yad soledes bo (שו”ע הגר”ז סכ”ג, מ”ב סי’ רנ”ח ססק”ב).
  • Kli sheini. However, one may heat a bottle in a kli sheini, i.e., by pouring hot water from a kli rishon into another pot and then putting the bottle into the second pot (שו”ע סי’ שי”ח סי”ג), even if it will reach yad soledes bo (מ”ב סקפ”ז). However, he must be careful not to fully submerge the bottle in the water, as that is an issur of hatmanah [insulating] (מ”ב סי’ רנ”ח ססק”ב); he should make sure that some of the bottle remains outside the water (ע”פ רמ”א סי’ רנ”ג סס”א).

Changing Diapers

  • Opening the diaper. Sometimes, the inside edges of a diaper appear to be attached, raising a possible issue of koreia [tearing] when opening them. Nevertheless, most types of diapers are not actually attached – they are just pressed tightly together and appear attached – and may be opened normally (ארחות שבת פי”א אות כ”ח). Even if the diaper was slightly stuck together from the heat of the factory’s cutting machine, there is no issur to separate it since it got stuck by itself, not purposely (מג”א, מ”ב סי’ ש”מ סקמ”ה).

Treating Rashes with Diaper Cream

  • Cream. One may apply cream to a baby’s diaper rash. It is best to squeeze the cream directly from the tube onto the site without smearing it at all; when the diaper is closed it will rub in by itself. If the baby has a serious rash and it is necessary to rub on the cream, one may do so with a shinui, e.g., with the back of a spoon (שש”כ פי”ד אות ל”א).
  • Creams which get fully absorbed. Some creams work specifically when they are rubbed until fully absorbed into the body. Some hold that in such a manner, there is no issur of memareiach [smearing] (מג”א סי’ שט”ז סקכ”ד). If a child is ill or has a serious irritation, one may rely on this (דעת תורה סי’ שכ”ח סכ”ו, שו”ת מנח”י ח”ז סי’ כ’).
  • Powder. One may sprinkle baby powder onto a baby, even if it is for healing purposes, since children’s general needs have the status of non-dangerous ailments (ע”פ הרמ”א סי’ שכ”ח סי”ז).
  • Oil. One may rub baby oil, olive oil, or any similar thin liquid onto a baby (שו”ע סי’ שכ”ז ס”א), especially if the baby needs it (ע”פ הרמ”א הנ”ל).

Diaper that Changes Color when Wet

  1. There are diapers which change color upon contact with moisture, making it easier for parents to know when to change them. One may use these on Shabbos since there is no need for the diaper to be colored; it simply indicates that it is wet. Also, the baby urinating is not considered an action which would make it subject to the melachah of tzoveia [dyeing].

Baby Wipes

  1. Over time, many poskim have deliberated the halachah regarding moist wipes on Shabbos in terms of sechitah and mefareik, as their usefulness lies in the moisture that comes out when they are used. In reality, there are many types of wipes on the market. Also, not all packages from one company are identical, nor are all the wipes within one package; some are moister, some are drier. One cannot rule on each wipe separately. What they do all have in common is concern of an issur de’oraisa of sechitah since they are made of materials that grow from the ground, such as cotton and the like, and have the status of a cloth.
  2. Therefore, the consensus of nearly all the major poskim is that one should not use them on Shabbos (שו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ח סי’ נ”ט, שו”ת מנח”י ח”י סי’ כ”ד, הגריש”א, שבות יצחק י”ד מלאכות שבת עמ’ תי”ז, הגר”נ קרליץ, חוט שני פל”ג עמ’ ר”ט, שו”ת עמק התשובה ח”ג סי’ י”ג, הגרפ”א פאלק, ארחות שבת פי”ג אות מ”ו).
  3. Wiping without pressing. Some suggest that it would be mutar to wipe without pressing too much. However, experience shows that often, a light wipe is not enough to clean the area. Also, it is impossible to instruct others exactly how much pressure is mutar or assur; that a small difference in pressure can create an issur de’oraisa cannot be conveyed to the public and to women. Thus, one should not rely on this heter at all (שו”ת שבט הלוי שם).
  4. Nearly all wipes today require at least some pressure to completely clean away the excrement [if you are not convinced, try changing the dirty diapers of a few two-year-olds…].
  5. Synthetic wipes. There is a company in America that manufactures wipes from synthetic materials [at least 90% or so], such as polyester, which is not grown from the ground, and would thus only involve an issur derabanan of sechitah. For this reason, along with a combination of other factors, some allow using them without pressing (שו”ת עמק התשובה ח”ח סי’ כ”ה). As we wrote above, (16), this instruction is impossible to convey to the public and cannot be practically applied (כנ”ל מבעל שבט הלוי). Also, the combination of factors leaves room for doubt.
  6. [Incidentally, this company writes on the package, “Mutar to use on Shabbos” with an emblem, but it does not write that it is only mutar without pressing. This can cause people to err, as they do not inform the public at large that the heter is only on condition that one does not press; the fact that they say they display a rav’s letter on their website is insufficient.]
  7. Wipes in conjunction with baby lotion. If one pours baby lotion onto the area, he may then use moist wipes – even cotton ones – to clean the baby since there is no need for the liquid which comes out of the wipe if the area is already wet with the lotion; in such a case, there is no issur of sechitah (שו”ת חוקי חיים כת”י). Using water alone does not suffice since the cleaning agents and fragrance in the wipes, which are not found in water, are also desirable. [From a practical standpoint, even after applying lotion, it is easier to use a wipe than a tissue since tissues generally fall apart during use.]
  8. Spray. One may also apply a water-based solution which contains soap onto the area and then wipe the baby with moist wipes since, after applying the solution, the liquid which comes out of the wipe serves no purpose (שם).

Using the Strips on the Diaper

  • Adhesive strips. Some diapers are closed with adhesive strips. They are covered with tabs to preserve the adhesiveness which are opened before putting the diaper onto the baby. Since there is a machlokes whether opening the tabs involves the issur of koreia (ע”פ שו”ע סי’ ש”מ סי”ד), some are machmir not to use them (שו”ת מנח”י ח”ה סי’ ל”ט, הגריש”א הובא בארחות שבת פי”א אות ל”ה); others are meikel (הגרשז”א הובא בשש”כ ח”ג פל”ה הע’ ס”ג). Therefore, it is best to open the tabs and reclose them before Shabbos, in which case they may be reopened and used normally on Shabbos.
  • If one forgot to prepare them before Shabbos, he may open them on Shabbos with a shinui, e.g., with his teeth.
  • When putting the diaper on the baby, there is no issue of kosheir [tying] to close it since it is done in such a way that it can be opened and closed again. This is like closing a button, which is not an issue of tefirah [sewing] at all.
  • After removing the child’s diaper, some make sure not to use the adhesive strips to close the diaper since it will be closed permanently, despite the fact that one only benefits from them until he throws away the diaper (ארחות שבת שם, מאור השבת בשם הגרי”י פישר).
  • Velcro. Most diapers today are closed with velcro strips, not tape. On Shabbos, these are preferable to their adhesive counterparts since they do not involve shailos of koreia or tofeir and may be used normally (הגר”נ קרליץ, חוט שני ח”א פי”ז ססק”ב).
  • Diaper sack. When placing a soiled diaper into a diaper sack, one must make sure not to close the sack handles with a knot or loop.

Children in a Reshus Horabim

Carrying a Child in a Reshus Horabim

  • One should not carry a child in his hands or push him in a stroller in a place without an eiruv [such as…]. Although a child who can walk on his own is considered to ‘carry himself’ (שו”ע סי’ ש”ח סמ”א), there is still an issur derabanan to carry him, even in a karmelis (מ”ב שם ס”ק קנ”ד).
  • If a child can walk a bit by himself, one may take him by the hand to help him walk in a reshus harabim, as long as he lifts one leg while the other is on the ground; but not if his feet are dragging (שו”ע סי’ ש”ח סמ”א).
  • If a child who has begun walking himself stops and refuses to move while on a street with less than 600,000 people, some say it is a sha’as hadchak and one may pick him up (ע”פ שו”ת פרי תבואה ה”א סי’ ז’ שו”ת רע”א סי’ כ”ח). It is best to walk less than four amos at a time, and, when arriving at the house’s courtyard, to try to get the child to enter on his own (שש”כ פי”ח אות נ”ו).

Getting a Non-Jew to Push a Child in a Stroller

  • Reshus harabim. One may tell a non-Jew to push a child in a stroller, even in a reshus harabim, if the child is able to walk a bit on his own and if it is for a mitzvah, e.g., to go to a Shabbos meal (מ”ב סי’ שכ”ה ס”ק ס’) or if the child needs to be with his mother (שו”ת שבט הלוי ח”ז סי’ ל”ז) since it is a shvus d’shvus for a mitzvah (שו”ע סי’ ש”ז ס”ה): amirah l’akum is a derabanan and a child who can walk on his own is a derabanan.
  • This heter may not be used for a baby that cannot walk on its own in a reshus harabim deoraisa of 600,000 people (מ”ב שם).
  • Karmelis. However, in a karmelis, such as a public area without 600,000 people, one may tell a non-Jew to push a baby in a stroller if necessary, as explained above, even if the baby cannot walk on his own at all (שעה”צ סי’ שכ”ה ס”ק ס”ד).

Bringing a Baby for a Bris Milah

  • Some hold that one should not get a non-Jew to carry a baby to shul for his bris, even through a karmelis, if there is no eiruv; since a bris can be, and occasionally is, done at home, bringing him to shul is not considered a mitzvah need (מג”א סי’ של”א סק”ה, מ”ב שם סק”כ).
  • Some allow this since it is a shvus d’shvus to fulfill the mitzvah with a larger gathering (ט”ז סי’ שמ”ט סק”א), or for kavod habriyos, or similar considerations (א”ר סי’ של”א סק”ו). Each person should act according to the practice set forth by local rabbonim.

Assembling a High Chair or Stroller

High Chair

  • A baby’s high chair that is regularly opened and folded back up may be opened and refolded on Shabbos (ע”פ שו”ע סי’ שט”ו ס”ה). Similarly, one may attach the high chair’s tray if it comes on and off easily and is meant to be regularly attached and detached.
  • However, one may not attach or detach the legs or other parts of a high chair which are put on once and only taken off when it needs to be moved from place to place (מ”ב סקכ”ג).

Stroller

  • Changing stroller parts. Most strollers today easily convert from a bassinet stroller to a car seat stroller and vice versa, or by assembling different attachments, using hinges, hooks, or spring latches. One may convert them on Shabbos without any issues of makeh b’patish or binyan bekeilim.
  • Hood. Since a stroller’s hood is attached to the stroller and made to be opened and closed, it is like a chair composed of several parts, which does not involve an issur of making or taking down an ohel, and may be extended and folded on Shabbos (חזו”א או”ח סי’ נ”ב סק”ו).
  • Umbrella. One may open and close an umbrella on a stroller which is meant to provide shade since technically, opening a regular umbrella is not a problem of ohel, just using it is ‘uvdin d’chol’ (חזו”א שם), and a stroller’s umbrella is not uvdin d’chol (חוט שני ח”ב פל”ו סק”י).
  • Plastic cover. One may stretch the stroller’s plastic cover over the hood since it is only an addition to an ohel which anyway may be opened on Shabbos (הגרשז”א, שש”כ פכ”ד הע’ מ”ו). One may also take the plastic off without an issue of dismantling a temporary ohel (חזו”א סי’ נ”ב סק”ז, ארחות שבת פ”ט ל”ד ל”ה).

Zerachya Shicker is the translator for the English version of חוקי חיים. The Chukai Chaim is a halacha sheet in a league of its own. Started in August 2016 (Av 5776), the Chukai Chaim currently has a readership in the tens of thousands across the globe.

Leave a Reply

2 replies on “Caring for a Baby on Shabbos”

  • Yizzy S
    October 9, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    Is the usage of wipes and baby lotion lekatchilah?
    Or only a kukah?

    • Zerachya Shicker
      October 14, 2021 at 5:20 pm

      A kulah for parents to clean their baby
      (from Rav Bleier)