Breastfeeding After a C-Section

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Breastfeeding after cesarean birth is a joyful way for you and baby to bond and recover.  If your birth did not go as you had hoped, breastfeeding can help heal the disappointment you may be feeling.  Many mothers find great comfort in the satisfaction of knowing they are giving their newborn the very best start.  Regardless of how you give birth - via c-section or vaginally - having lots of support will help you in reaching your breastfeeding goals.  

Below are some ideas to make breastfeeding after a c-section easier.  

  • Choosing a Hospital & Provider:  Your provider and the place you give birth can make a great impact on breastfeeding initiation and duration.  Make sure your doctor, the nurses, and other staff are aware of your breastfeeding goals before and at birth.  Many hospital are “baby friendly” meaning they have policies in place to promote and protect the breastfeeding relationship.  Ideally, your baby will be skin to skin immediately after the birth, and breastfeeding within the first hour of being born.  If you’re unable to go skin to skin with baby, ask if your partner or a family member can.  Skin to skin of any kind is still beneficial for baby.  Your partner or family member can also help assist the baby to your breast and help support the baby if you’re unable to.  Ask the staff to postpone the first bath until you have had a chance to see your baby and begin breastfeeding. If all is going well with both you and your baby, there is no reason the bath, measurements, and physical assessments have to be done before your first nursing.  Speak with your provider about their policy and how you can take advantage of the time immediate after birth.  Sometimes your baby’s doctor can write an order for skin to skin, delayed bathing, etc. if it’s not the usual practice in the hospital you’re birthing at.


  • Types of Anesthetic:  Find out what types of anesthetics will be used for your c-section.  Most often a regional (spinal or epidural) is used.  You can be awake for the birth and may be able to nurse in the operating room.  Be sure to have help with positioning and supporting the baby.  In the event of an emergency c-section, general anesthetic may be used, and it may be several hours before you are alert enough to hold and nurse your baby, but that shouldn’t prevent you from making up for lost time once you and baby are able to be together.  Again, family can go skin to skin with baby until you are able to.  A partner or family member can also hold a breast pump to your breast (ideally in the first hour after delivery) and start your milk flowing until you are able to nurse.  The colostrum (your first milk) can be given to baby with a spoon until you can nurse.


  • Keep Mom and Baby Together:  Most hospitals have 24-hour rooming in now.  This means baby will stay with you in the postpartum room until you are discharged.  Breastfeeding goes much more easily when you and baby are kept together.  You can nurse baby at the first signs of hunger, which will help your milk supply increase sooner, and baby will be less likely to lose too much weight.  You’ll also be able to protect baby from being given a bottle or pacifiers, which can interfere with breastfeeding.  Many moms find they have less trouble with latching, nipple soreness, and engorgement in the early days when they aren’t separated.  Babies are sometimes a little sleepy after birth, more so with a c-section birth.  You  may have to encourage baby to nurse more often.  If there are concerns your baby may be separated from you after the birth, ask your baby’s doctor if she can write an order for kangaroo care, which will allow you and baby to be together.   

 

  • Breastfeed Early & Often.  Breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth has several benefits for mother and baby.  It allows for mom and baby to bond, and releases hormones to contract the uterus more quickly among the many reasons.  If you’re unable to breastfeed right away, ask for a breast pump.  Pumping (or breastfeeding) soon after birth can help stimulate your milk supply, provide colostrum to your baby, and prevent engorgement.  Aim for 5 feedings in the first 10 hours, with 9-12+ total feedings in the first 24 hours.  In the early days, baby should not go more than 2 hours in-between feeding.  (Remember, feedings are timed from the start of one to the start of another.) 


  • Comfortable Breastfeeding Positions:  At first, it may be tricky to find a comfortable position that allows baby to breastfeed without hurting your incision.  Have your partner or other helpers stay nearby to help you position the baby.  The “side lying” or “laid back” position can work well.  The “football or clutch” hold can also work well.  It is best to offer both breasts at each feeding, especially in the early days. Do not limit baby’s time at the breast. Breastfed babies cannot overfeed. He will let go of the breast or fall asleep when satisfied. When baby seems to be finished on one breast, whoever is available to help can burp her, change her diaper if necessary, and get baby positioned at the other breast.  A La Leche League Leader or lactation counselor can help with positioning baby at the breast.


  • Use of Artificial Nipples:  Early use of bottles or pacifiers can interfere with learning to latch and suck effectively.  The milk from a bottle may flow more quickly and be challenging for baby to cope with.  It can also lead to overfeeding or a preference for the bottle as it requires less work.  Pacifiers can cause nipple confusion and can cause baby to take in fewer feeds, leading to milk supply concerns and weight gain issues.  Communication with the hospital staff is very important; specify that no bottles, pacifiers, or formula should be given to your baby. If supplemental fluids must be given, request the use of donor human milk and ask the hospital staff to supplement with a cup.


  • Recovery.  It’s important your family and friends realize that you need time to recover from childbirth and surgery, while learning to breastfeeding, and bond with baby.  Limit the number of visitors you have and the length of time they stay.  Ask for help from family, friends, neighbors, etc. with meals, pet care, groceries, and more.


Remember, breastfeeding should not hurt. Learning a new skill often takes time, no matter how your baby arrived! If for any reason breastfeeding is not going smoothly, ask a La Leche League Leader or lactation counselor for help.  

Dean.Amanda@icloud.com | 303.601.5689
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