Breastfeeding After C-Section: 9 Things You Should Know
The C-section is over and you're ready to breastfeed -- but you have so many questions! Here are 9 things to know about breastfeeding after a C-section.
You decided long ago to breastfeed your little one, but ended up having a cesarean section. Does that change things? Breastfeeding after C-section can present some obstacles, but it's not impossible.
Here are 9 things to know about successfully breastfeeding after C-section:
- Find Time for Skin-to-Skin Contact
Dr. Kathleen McCue, a family nurse practitioner and International Board Certified Breastfeeding Consultant (IBCLC) with Bethesda Breastfeeding, says that "babies should always be placed skin-to-skin after delivery for at least an hour." After a C-section, "[Immediate skin-to-skin contact] makes your body understand that the baby survived the birth and you should therefore start making milk," she explains.
- Breastfeed Early and Often
First-time mothers wanting to nurse after a C-section often wonder how frequently they should be breastfeeding their newborn. Natalie Hessell, an accredited La Leche League Leader and IBCLC with Quad City Lactation Services, recommends that women breastfeeding after C-section do so early and often. According to Hessell, nursing early and frequently gets breastfeeding off to a good start and helps establish your milk supply."Newborns should nurse at least eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period," she recommends.
Joy MacTavish, an IBCLC and owner of Sound Breastfeeding, says that frequency is key to breastfeeding after a C-section. According to her, "breastfeeding often in the early days is the best way to tell your body that you want milk for your baby."
- Bunk Up With Your Baby
The best way to establish breastfeeding after C-section is to have your baby stay with you in your hospital room. Hessell says that when mothers remain with their baby, they "will pick up on feeding cues and be able to nurse often without delay." Dr. McCue says that "babies should be 'latched' onto the breast at least every two hours during the day so milk supply is established and babies don't lose too much birth weight." At night, Dr. McCue says "that babies should be woken up ... with one three-hour break and one four-hour break until they're back to birth weight."
- Don't Fear Delayed Milk
Delayed milk production is one of the biggest concerns for a mother breastfeeding after C-section. Dr. McCue says that she rarely sees delayed milk production and believes that C-section moms "can do just as good of a job as a vaginal delivery mom, they just need more support the first 24 to 48 hours with bringing baby to breast."
- Start Pumping If You're Separated
If you and your baby are separated and your baby is unable to breastfeed in the first four hours, MacTavish suggests that mothers "ask for a hospital-grade breast pump and assistance with getting started with pumping. [Mothers] can also use hand-expression to remove milk, which is sometimes more effective in collecting colostrum during the early days."
- Pain Medications Are OK
There is no need to tough it out through post-operative pain. In fact, MacTavish says that "most anesthesia and oral pain medications given during surgery and after birth are compatible with breastfeeding. If you have concerns, talk with your doctor or lactation consultant about your specific medications."
- Avoid Discomfort With Certain Holds
With your recent abdominal surgery, you'll want to explore different nursing positions that keep your baby away from your incision area. "Laid-back, football hold and side-lying [are] just a few positions that tend to work well to avoid pressure on the incision site," says MacTavish. "You can also brace the incision site with your hand or a pillow while you and your baby are getting into position." Work with a lactation consultant to find the position that works best for you and baby during recovery.
- Be Patient
Go easy on yourself and don't get frazzled. Hessell tells mothers to "be patient with [themselves]. You are learning to be this baby's parent along with recovering from surgery. Know you and your baby can do this!" Remember that you and your baby have a unique bond that may take some time to figure out. "Breastfeeding is a relationship and no two mother-baby couples are alike," adds Dr. McCue.
- Get Support
From the hospital to home, mothers breastfeeding after C-section need support. Utilize the hospital's lactation consultant, have your partner or another family member help you with feedings or even hire a postpartum doula to help you through. "Expect to need extra rest and assistance until you're fully recovered," advises MacTavish. Most of all, says Hessell, "Get help if you need it -- contact La Leche League, go to meetings or make a call."
For help during your C-section recovery period, hire a doula on Care.com.
Lauren B. Stevens was too proud to arrange for an LC before having her son via C-section. Thankfully, Lauren's pediatrician is also an IBCLC; working with her LC, Lauren and her son were able to have a successful twenty-one month long breastfeeding relationship. Lauren writes about motherhood for The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and her blog, lo-wren.