Article: Negel Vasser and Midnight Feedings


A nursing mother with a young baby may wake up multiple times during the night to feed her baby. Must she wash Negel Vasser (the alternating right/left-hand ritual washing upon waking) each time she awakens?

To require washing, sleep must exceed the timeframe of Shishim Neshimos (lit., sixty breaths, according to mainstream opinion, a half hour; see Article #623 for all the parameters). In addition, the following two halachos might come into play with a nighttime nursing mother (or bottle-feeding, with prepared bottles):

  • Upon waking, a person may not walk four Amos (arm lengths, i.e., a distance of approximately six feet) before washing Negel Vasser—even in the middle of the night when they plan to go back to sleep. But if the woman is feeding a baby in bed or very close by, she is exempt from washing.
  • A person may not touch facial or body openings or food before washing. If she wishes to avoid washing Negel Vasser, she should not touch the infant’s mouth (or her own orifices) or the milk; if it is necessary for her to poke around in order to properly feed her baby, she may do so with a burp cloth or some other means so as not to touch either orifices or the food directly.



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