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Bris for Beginners

Whether you’re a new mom or just a party guest, here’s everything you need to know about this Jewish right of passage.

Bris for Beginners

Imagine hosting a religious ceremony where you present your postpartum self and tiny bundle of joy to new family members just a week after you’ve given birth. While the thought would make most new mothers cringe in self-consciousness, many Jewish mamas rise to the occasion to celebrate the ‘brit milah’ or ‘Bris’ circumcision ceremony just a mere eight days after bringing their sons into the world.

What exactly is this spiritual rite of passage for baby boys and how can Jewish and interfaith couples, their families and guests make the most of this meaningful life cycle event? We spoke with Cantor Philip Sherman, a traditionally trained mohel based in NYC, to find out.

The Bris. The custom of the Bris originated in biblical times, and since the dawn of Judaism, it has served as a physical symbol of the Jewish faith. This Jewish lifecycle event for baby boys is held on the eighth day of life, assuming baby is healthy enough. Many parents create a celebration around the circumcision ceremony, and invite friends and family to meet the newest member of their family.

The Mohel. While some families turn to doctors to circumcise their sons while still in the hospital, a traditional Bris involves a traditional mohel, who is trained in the ritual of circumcision. Mohels like Cantor Sherman perform circumcisions exclusively and on a full-time basis, and will ensure the ceremony is in accordance with Jewish law. Many mohels have done tens of thousands of circumcisions (Cantor Sherman has done over 21,000 circumcisions throughout his career!) and receive referrals from the medical community. A mohel usually circumcizes the baby in less than 15 seconds with no advanced preparations. If you don’t know a mohel, you can ask your doctor for a recommendation, or call you local Jewish community center. There’s also a helpful list here.

Pain Relief. Sherman does not use anesthetic, which can harm the baby. After the brief circumcision procedure, he gives the baby a gauze pad with sweet wine to suck on, then hands him back to his mom to be soothed.

The Ceremony. The Bris ceremony bestows honors on the special people in the baby’s life who will have the opportunity to hold the child and welcome him. Sherman honors any great-grandparents in attendance and the baby’s namesake whose soul, according to Jewish tradition, is now forever intertwined with a new one. Cantor Sherman admits he is one of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet, but he leaves his shtick at home while on call.

Guest Protocol. If you’re heading to a Bris, be on time -- the ceremony is usually short and sweet. Guests, Sherman says, should observe the sanctity of the ceremony; no penis jokes please! A festive meal follows, so there will be plenty of time to shmooze over bagels and lox after the Bris is complete. While not required, many guests choose to save their baby gift for this occasion and bring it along.

Interfaith Families. While the Bris is a profoundly Jewish tradition, it’s by no means exclusionary of interfaith families and couples. Mohels can create a more universal ceremony that works for all.

The Location. For many new mamas, the most convenient place to hold a Bris is either in the family home or a party room at your building. You may also want to try your local synagogue, or even a favorite bar or restaurant, especially if they have a private event space. But there are certainly more creative options. Cantor Sherman has traveled to Japan, where Bris guests sat on the floor, as well as Singapore, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Aspen. He has even performed his mohel duties suspended on a platform over a swimming pool at one family home!

The Mama Dress Code. As for the eternal question of what to wear, your first week postpartum won’t be the best time to shop. Enlist a close female friend or relative to help, or check out the stylish and nursing options on one of our favorite mom-friendly shopping sites, shopburu.com.

Advice for the new mama. Experienced moms say major nerves and emotions the night before are not uncommon, but rest assured that it will all go smoothly, as it has for centuries. The circumcision site, which is cared for with antibiotic ointment during diaper changes, heals quickly and the Mohel and baby’s pediatrician are on hand to answer any questions that may arise.

Photography by Noam Galai.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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