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Breastfeeding After a C-section
by Susie Hamilton
Breast Pumps Direct
Although many mothers often hear that breastfeeding can be quite difficult if not impossible after a cesarean birth, it is very possible for a mother to develop a successful breastfeeding relationship with her child after a c-section delivery.
Breastfeeding can actually help to speed up your recovery since your baby’s suckling will help to shrink your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size, and the extra calories needed to produce breastmilk can help you to lose your pregnancy weight faster. The bond that you and your child will develop through breastfeeding can also help to heal any emotional pain that you may experience following separation from your baby after delivery. There are many irreplaceable benefits to breastfeeding, to learn more please read our article on the Top 20 Reasons to Breastfeed.
Choosing to breastfeed after a cesarean delivery will require a little more planning on your part before you deliver your baby. You will need to consider how your breastfeeding relationship will begin while you are at the hospital and what you will need when you return home to continue breastfeeding successfully.
Prior to Your Delivery
Surgical Anesthesia – Two types of anesthesia that can be used during a cesarean delivery. The first is general anesthetic, which is also referred to as surgical anesthesia, can interfere with the initiation of breastfeeding after birth since it can make both you and your baby groggy.
The second option is an epidural or local anesthetic, which will allow you to remain alert throughout delivery and will give you the opportunity to breastfeed right after delivery. Today most hospitals use epidurals when performing c-sections, but to be sure you should check with your doctor and the hospital prior to admission in the hospital.
Breastfeeding Policy – Find out what the hospital’s policy is on breastfeeding. It is routine in some hospitals to give all babies pacifiers and artificial nipples. Be sure to let your doctor and the hospital know that you plan to breastfeed and that your baby should not receive a pacifier or artificial nipple at any time.
Rooming-in – You’ll get the hang of breastfeeding much quicker from the start if your baby is allowed to room-in with you after delivery. By sleeping in the same room right from the start you’ll be able to begin noticing your baby’s hunger cues and feeding him or her at the appropriate time rather than waiting for the hospital staff to bring him or her to you.
Some hospitals have policies that require babies born via c-section are observed in the nursery for the first 24 hours. If the hospital you will be attending has this kind of policy, explain how having your baby room-in with you will help to ensure the success of your breastfeeding relationship. If the hospital staff is unwilling to make an exception, you should consider finding another hospital that will respect your wishes.
Separation Possibility – If there will be a chance of an increased separation of you and your baby, you should be prepared to express your milk with a pump to maintain your supply. Many hospitals offer lactation services and may be able to provide you with a pump to use during the separation. You can also purchase a personal pump that you can use in the hospital as well as when you return home.
When You Return Home
You’ll Need Help – After any birth, a mom can use a little help around the house, but after a cesarean, you’ll need to be sure that someone is around to help you pick up and carry your baby. Your spouse, a relative or friend can be a big help at this point. You may also consider hiring a doula or baby nurse to assist you during your first days home.
Pain Isn’t Necessary – Many mothers often think that pain relievers are off limits when they are breastfeeding, but the truth is that there are several options available that are safe for you to use while breastfeeding. Speak with your doctor to find out which pain relievers will be safe for you and your baby after your c-section.
Begin breastfeeding in positions that will keep your baby’s weight off your incision until it heals. The side-lying and clutch-hold positions prove to be the most comfortable for mothers post-op. A maternity belt or a breastfeeding pillow can also help to protect your incision.
You will be tired once you return home and you should be sure to get plenty of rest, but it is also very important for you to nurse or pump often to prevent engorgement and maintain your milk supply.
Breastfeeding after a cesarean birth may take a little more planning on your part, but it is possible for you and your child to develop a wonderful breastfeeding relationship. For more information about breastfeeding after a cesarean, visit AskDrSears.com, Breastfeed.com and the La Leche League International website.
Return to: Breastfeeding Basics