There are many myths associated with breastfeeding after C-section. Some mothers claim that they could not do it, so you may even try. Others believe that this is nothing more than a myth. So, is it possible to establish breastfeeding after C-section?
After cesarean section milk comes a little later than after natural childbirth. This fact caused fears that the baby will not get enough precious food. Nevertheless, on the first day, a few grams of nutritive colostrum will be sufficient for the baby, if there are no contraindications to feeding.
Breastfeeding After C-section
Often, future mothers are worried whether they can breastfeed their babies if they have a caesarean section.
Considering that now, all over the world the percentage of deliveries by caesarean section increases every year, the problem of organizing breastfeeding after operative delivery does not lose its relevance.
To date, the effect of caesarean section on subsequent breastfeeding has been well studied, and basically the frequency and duration of breastfeeding among mothers who gave birth by caesarean section is about the same as among those who gave birth naturally.
Often the process of establishing breastfeeding after C-section is surrounded by many myths. For example, there is still the opinion that mothers who gave birth with a caesarean section may not have milk after giving birth, or that there will be very little of it, and the mother will not be able to breastfeed longer than a couple of months. In fact, it is not so!
What should a mom whose birth will occur or have already occurred by caesarean section know? The most important thing is – you can breastfeed your baby. So, what features of breastfeeding one can actually expect after a cesarean section?
Delayed Arrival of Milk
Yes, indeed, due to surgical intervention during childbirth, the period before the “arrival” of milk may increase. This may be both due to the surgical intervention itself and to the fact that the first application of the newborn to the breast after cesarean section happens, as a rule, later than in cases when mother gives birth in a natural way. In addition, mothers after cesarean section often have less opportunities for organizing early and frequent feeding of their baby in the first days because of their poor health or separation of the mother and baby in the hospital after the surgery.
The period before the “arrival” of milk after cesarean section takes most often 3-7 days. It depends on:
- the amount and type of medicines used during childbirth,
- the speed of recovery of the mother’s body,
- the time of the first application,
- the correctness of breast grabbing,
- the frequency and the duration of feeding of the baby form the moment of birth.
If, after a cesarean section in the maternity hospital, it is possible to stay in the same room with the baby, this is a great chance to successfully start the breastfeeding process. And even if you feel so bad that you don’t even want to think about breastfeeding, still try to keep the baby with you as much as possible. Even a simple look at your long-awaited baby, stroking his fingers, light touches to his back, arms and legs, his delicate and native smell will help you to relax faster after difficult births and at the same time get to know your baby better.
The pain that accompanies the recovery process after any surgical procedure can actually worsen the flow of milk from the breast during nursing or pumping. This is due to the fact that the pain and stress experienced by a nursing mother temporarily block the production of the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for the easy separation of milk from the breast. Particularly frequent problems with the release of milk are experienced by those mothers whose caesarean section was carried out for emergency reasons.
In such a situation, a gentle massage of the mammary glands before feeding or pumping can help to improve milk flow (ask the nurse or midwife to show you how to do this massage correctly!). A gentle massage of the shoulder girdle, neck area and back can also be helpful. In addition, a cup of warm drink, drunk immediately before or at the beginning of feeding, will also contribute to an increase in oxytocin. Thus, milk will flow more easily from the breast, and the baby will be much more likely to suck the breast.
If the pain is very strong, you can discuss with your doctor the appropriateness of the use of painkillers. Make sure to pick up those medicines that will be safe while breastfeeding.
The Need for Help
After giving birth by caesarean section, the presence of an assistant, who in the first days will be able to bring your baby and pick him/her up after feeding, is especially required, as well as help to find comfortable poses for putting the baby to the breast.
After leaving the maternity hospital, the assistant, who usually becomes someone from close relatives or friends, will be able to take over some of the household chores so that the mother can fully devote herself to caring for the newborn and recovering as soon as possible after the surgery.
The Need to Choose Comfortable Pose for Feeding
Ask a nurse at the maternity hospital or a lactation consultant to help you find poses for nursing in which the baby’s weight does not fall on the healing postoperative suture.
Some mothers in the first days after the surgery feel comfortable to breastfeed while sitting in a chair with low armrests using a special pillow for nursing. Others prefer feeding the baby “from under the arm” or in the supine position.
If you are lying on your side, for convenience, you can surround yourself with pillows. Pillows will help keep your back and head in a comfortable position during feeding. An additional small cushion or simply rolled up towel will support the incision area if you place it between your belly and the bed.
In general, any posture you choose should meet the following requirements:
- it should not cause physical discomfort to the mother,
- should allow you to control the correctness of the baby’s breast grabbing,
- and it should be comfortable enough for long feedings.
Possible Apathy of the Baby
Babies born by caesarean section may be more sluggish and sleepy, especially if they were exposed to anesthetics and analgesics for a long time during the birth process. But even if this is the case, you need to understand that a small delay in the start of active feeding will not determine the further fate of breastfeeding as a whole. Just the establishment of lactation may occur a little later than in the case of natural birth.
If your baby doesn’t show interest in breastfeeding the first time after birth, keep calm. Many mothers face similar difficulties at the beginning, but fortunately, these difficulties are quite surmountable, with a certain perseverance and patience.
Allow the baby to spend as much time as possible in bodily contact with you, sleeping on your chest – this will help him/her to adapt faster after birth and awaken innate instincts and reflexes.
Even if the baby is not able to take a breast and start sucking right now, everything will definitely work out, perhaps within a few minutes, hours or days. Sooner or later, all the babies take the breast, if the mother makes enough efforts.
Try to make an attempt to attach the baby to the breast not on a schedule, but in those moments when the child is calm and ready to learn to suck. Frequent feeding will help mom quickly learn how to apply the baby to the breast, and the child to quickly get used to her mother’s unique nipple shape, learn to grab the nipple and areola, and properly hold the breast in the mouth during sucking.
Establishing Breastfeeding after C-section
In order to stimulate the desire of the newborn to suck the breast, you can squeeze drops of colostrum on the lips or in the baby’s mouth. If it does not work out, you can pump out a little colostrum and give it to your baby with the help of a spoon.
Until the baby is able to suck well, the mother can stimulate and maintain lactation, expressing the breast with her hands or breast pump every 2-3 hours, and feeding the baby with the expressed colostrum using a spoon, pipette or syringe without a needle. If the baby is born prematurely or the mother knows that breastfeeding will not be possible for several days, then it makes sense to start expressing colostrum as soon as possible after delivery.
The question of feeding the baby in such situations is solved individually. If a mother can express colostrum and pass it on to a newborn, this is by far the best option. If this option is not possible, then the issue is solved by temporary feeding with donor milk or formula. It is important to remember that the amount of food in one feeding should correspond to the volume of the stomach of the newborn, as well as the physiological needs and capabilities of the child. In addition, if the child receives food not from a bottle, but from an object that excludes sucking (a cup, spoon, syringe, pipette), it will be much easier for the mother to teach him how to grab the breast when it becomes possible. The baby will quickly and easily learn how to get milk directly from the breast.
Additional Tips for Breastfeeding after C-section
As a result of surgery the body does not immediately “understand” that the child has already been born and it is time to feed him/her. In order to run natural processes the following is recommended:
- attach the baby to the breast as soon as possible;
- spend as much time as possible with the baby, feed “on demand”, for as much time as the baby is ready to suck – at least, until breastfeeding is improved;
- It is important to understand that in most cases the medications you take (including antibiotics) are not an obstacle to breastfeeding. If the drugs you have been prescribed are not compatible with breastfeeding, it is recommended to express the milk regularly until you can feed. Breast pumps, both mechanical and electrical, can help in this difficult work of a young mother.
Do not forget the various means to stimulate lactation: fennel, hot drink, shower, etc. One of the main conditions for successful breastfeeding after C-section is to find a position in which it is convenient for a woman to feed the baby.
So, breastfeeding after C-section is actually not that different from feeding after natural childbirth. You may not even face the above mentioned difficulties. Many mothers and babies feel good immediately after the surgery and are ready to start feeding in the first hours after birth, or even, in some cases, immediately in the delivery room.
In any case, caesarean section affects only the beginning and formation of breastfeeding, but not its duration or quality in the future. The desire and readiness of the mother to breastfeed play a crucial role in how and how long breastfeeding will ultimately continue, regardless of how the delivery happened.