C-Section Breastfeeding

c-section delivery, c-section birth

Cesarean section rates are high! The effects of medication, IV fluids and pain can make breastfeeding a challenge. Many mothers breastfeed after a C-section, but if you can avoid one, it will be worthwhile. If you have already had one C-section, you are not forced to have another one. Read my personal story about how I went from C-section and struggling to breastfeed, with my first child, to VBACK and breastfeeding for two years with my second. 

If possible, its best to NOT schedule a C-section, but to let labor begin. Even if you only get to experience a short few moments of labor, it can have an impact on your body's hormonal setup. Your body gets prepared to breastfeed your baby when labor begins, and your baby is given time to get ready to leave the womb. 

If a C-section does occur, you can ask that your baby is put skin to skin against you, while you are stitched up. Your baby can be held against you, above the drape. Smell and touch your baby as much as possible during these first few moments together. 

How can a C-section Impact Breastfeeding?

  • Mothers might think that they have failed at giving birth and then feel that they are going to fail at breastfeeding too. C-section breastfeeding can help to keep those postpartum blues away.
  • Mothers who have an epidural might be unable to hold and breastfeed their babies immediately after surgery.
  • Babies born via C-section are sometimes a bit drowsy, due to the anesthetics. Your baby might need some extra stimulation to stay awake. This should only last for a couple of hours.
  • Medications given to a mother after a C-section might cause lethargy in the baby. 
  • Mothers that undergo a C-section are often given antibiotics, which can cause thrush (yeast infection). Make yourself familiar with the signs of thrush, so that you will know how to handle it fast.
  • Finding a comfortable position for breastfeeding after C-section.
  • There are ways of placing a baby to avoid him/her lying on your stomach or cut. The best C-section breastfeeding position is the lying down position, or the football hold, which will keep your baby on your side and away from your tummy.

Why Breastfeed as soon as possible?

To Ensure Breastfeeding Success

  • Choose a hospital that is supportive of C-section breastfeeding. Make nurses and doctors aware of your decision to breastfeed and let them know that you do not want your child to be given any formula. 
  • Make sure that the hospital provides that you can room-in with your baby for "on demand breastfeeding" and breastfeeding through the night.
  • Ask for a private room, as this will allow you to feel more comfortable while breastfeeding.
  • If you cannot be near your baby for the first few hours, it is best to ask if you can use the hospital's breast pump, this will get your milk supply to "come in," prevent engorgement and the colostrum can be given to your baby.
  • Make sure that you have sufficient help with chores, at home after the surgery.
  • Get yourself a cesarean section breastfeeding pillow. This will prevent your baby from lying on your cut. 

C-Section Breastfeeding
Things to Remember

  • Breastfeeding after a C-section should be done at least every two hours to keep your supply up and to prevent breast engorgement, which can lead to mastitis.
  • Decide to stick to it and be determined to make it work. After a C-section, breastfeeding can be challenging during the first few weeks, but it gets easier and easier - it’s really worth it in the end.
  • Try not give your baby a pacifier or a bottle for at least six weeks after birth. If your baby needs to be fed breast milk and is not possible for him/her to get it directly from the breast, you can feed your baby with a syringe.
  • Your baby’s tummy is tiny during the first couple of days, and he/she only needs a small amount of colostrum for sustenance. 
  • Relax and enjoy this time. Stress can cause a delay in mature milk arrival.

What if your Milk “coming in" is Delayed after Surgery?

  • The first breastfeeding cesarean experience is usually the hardest. The second time around, your milk will often "come in" much faster.
  • In the case where a mother has had to give formula to her baby, because of her milk "coming in" late, she will need to continue to pump and breastfeed after a cesarean, until her supply is fully established. Also, make sure that the baby is offered the breast first before providing the expressed meals.
  • Remember that a baby needs to be breastfed every two hours for your milk supply to increase and this includes nighttime too. 
  • Your baby should preferably be breastfed within the first hour after birth.
  • Get a better understanding of how breast milk is produced.
  • Learn more about delayed milk onset.

The Breast Crawl

Have a natural birth after C-section (VBACK) to increase your chances of a successful breastfeeding relationship...read my story here.

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