Breastfeeding can be a very natural thing, where the baby comes out of the womb and takes to nursing wonderfully. However, sometimes things happen during delivery that can make breastfeeding more difficult. One of these things can be having a cesarean section.
The type of cesarean you have may make things challenging. If you are put under general anesthesia, the baby can be sleepier than normal after delivery, and the mother is often very sleepy or woozy. A normal cesarean delivery, where the mother is awake during the surgery, may cause the mother to be nauseated afterward and sometimes sleepy as well. The baby may also spit up clear fluids several times after the delivery.
Despite this, a new mom can still be very successful with breastfeeding after a c-section.
Here are some tips to help you get started on the best track after you have your baby.
1. Be sure to take a breastfeeding class BEFORE you have your baby. In-person is preferred but there are several virtual options as well.
2. Do skin-to-skin as soon as possible after the delivery of the baby. Some hospitals will let you do skin-to-skin in the operating room; others will make you wait until after you are in the recovery room. Talk to your doctor beforehand to see what the policy is at the hospital where you will be delivering.
3. Nurse as soon as possible after the delivery. Getting the baby to the breast early during the “wakeful” period will increase the chances of a first successful latch. You may have to continue to lay flat because of being post-surgery, but even if your movement is restricted, breastfeeding in the laid-back/ prone position can help the infant nurse well.
4. Nurse frequently! Waking your infant every few hours to feed is important, and will encourage a sleepy baby to want to nurse more.
5. Work with a lactation consultant (IBCLC) in the hospital to help make sure you are off to a good start, and that the infant has a strong latch and is getting enough milk from the breast.
6. Once you are able to sit up, try using the football hold to help keep the infant off of the incision. An infant-support nursing pillow can also be very helpful while you’re healing from a c-section.
7. Try to avoid unnecessary supplementation. Ask for help from a lactation consultant if supplementation is suggested or might be needed.
Some professionals say that you may have a delayed onset of milk production, but this is very unlikely. Milk production is triggered by the separation of the placenta from the uterus, so the milk should come in at the usual 3-5 days postpartum period, as with a vaginal delivery. If the birth is stressful, there may be a delay, but nursing frequently and working with a lactation consultant at the hospital can help with this.
Before going home, make sure you have checked in with a lactation consultant to ensure that the baby is nursing well before you leave. It’s always a good idea to make a follow-up visit with a lactation consultant once you get home.
It may also be beneficial to arrange for some help with meals and housework so that you can heal from the surgery and continue to learn to take care of your baby. Take your medications as prescribed and to be sure to contact your obstetrician or pediatrician if you start to feel unwell or your baby does not seem to be thriving.
Overall, you can breastfeed no matter what kind of delivery you have. Remember, if you have questions, ask for help – and happy nursing!