C-sections and breastfeeding: Everything you need to know

Do you worry your baby isn’t getting enough milk?

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Having a c-section may make your breastfeeding journey more difficult. Here’s how to succeed at breastfeeding despite the effects your c-section may have on your milk supply.

c-sections and breastfeeding: everything you need to know

Going through 31 hours of unmedicated labor which ended with an emergency c-section wasn’t anywhere on my birth plan. 

But I didn’t let that deter our breastfeeding journey. 

I wasn’t able to hold her immediately after my c-section because they had to monitor her breathing.

Once I arrived in my postpartum recovery room, I began shivering and having terrible neck pain.

Nurses began entering my room like a herd of sheep. I could hear the whispers but I couldn’t make out anything they were saying. 

They were studying the numbers on the machines and taking turns checking my incision to make sure it was still intact. 

My newborn daughter was crying and ready to eat.

My hands were shaking like a cell phone vibrating on a table. I didn’t even attempt to hold her. 

Her first meal was a bottle of formula despite my intentions on breastfeeding. 

Once the shivering and neck pain subsided, I breastfed her for the first time. 

So many emotions were flooding my body. 

I felt like a failure because I didn’t have the birthing experience I had planned. I felt Insecure because I had no idea what I was doing. I felt worried that I messed everything up by giving her a bottle of formula.

These emotions are normal and you may experience them and many more as well. 

Here’s everything you need to know about having a c-section and breastfeeding!

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How a c-section really affects your milk supply

“Moms who have stressful births (cesarean or vaginal) tend to have their milk come in a little bit later.”

After delivery, your milk comes in anytime from day 2 through day 6. 

The best way to stimulate milk production is to nurse as often as possible.

Keep in mind your baby’s tummy is teeny tiny so she won’t need a lot of milk to fill her up. 

If you only have colostrum, don’t panic! That’s exactly what your baby needs.

Why breastfeeding after your c-section may be difficult (but not impossible)

Although a c-section may cause a rocky start to your breastfeeding journey, it’s still possible to have success. 

Know the common problems that may arise so you’ll be prepared and equipped to solve them.

1. Postponed contact with baby 

You may not be able to do skin to skin contact or breastfeed immediately after delivery (known as “the golden hour”).

Some hospitals are changing their rules and allowing moms to do skin to skin or breastfeed right after delivery because it’s very important. 

Check with your hospital to see if they allow breastfeeding or skin to skin contact in the operating room.

2. Adverse medication effects 

According to the American Pregnancy Association, “since dosages and medications can vary, concrete information from research is currently unavailable” regarding the effects an epidural has on a newborn baby. 

They also state the epidural could cause your baby to struggle with latching which will make it more difficult to breastfeed. My daughter had no noticeable effects from the medication. 

The epidural caused me to shiver like I was in Antarctica wearing a bikini. This delayed the start of our breastfeeding journey but didn’t end it.

3. Uncontrolled pain

When you breastfeed for the first few times you may feel like you’re still having contractions. These are called afterpains. 

Your uterus contracts to get back to its normal size which helps prevent postpartum bleeding.  

You’ll also be encouraged to walk during the first 12 hours after your c-section to prevent gas pains and blood clots. 

Keep your pain under control so it’s easier to bear through the afterpains while breastfeeding and cope with the incisional pain from walking around.

4. Extended separation 

Depending on the health of your newborn you may be separated after delivery. 

If you’ll be away from your baby for more than 4 hours, consider pumping to let your body know that you do need it to make milk.

5. Erratic emotions 

When moms have a c-section, they’re sometimes made to feel like they “took the easy way out” or like “their body failed them.” 

Neither of these are true. 

If you planned to have a vaginal delivery or an unmedicated childbirth you may feel like you got “robbed” of this experience. 

Grieving the loss of your planned childbirth experience may make it harder to bond with your baby. Talk about your feelings and know that they’re normal.

10 phenomenal tips for breastfeeding success  

A c-section may affect your breastfeeding journey but it’s still possible to breastfeed like a pro. 

These 10 tips will help you accomplish your breastfeeding goals so you and your baby can reap the incredible benefits.

1. Prompt breastfeeding

Check with your healthcare provider to see how soon after delivery you’ll be able to breastfeed.

The earlier you ask this question the better in case you realize your doctor isn’t as supportive as you’d hoped. 

Make it clear you’d like to get your baby latched within the golden hour and remember it’s never too late to switch to a different healthcare provider.

2. Initiate skin to skin contact 

UNICEF defines skin to skin contact as “the practice where a baby is dried and laid directly on their mother’s bare chest after birth, both of them covered in a warm blanket and left for at least an hour or until after the first feed.”

Skin to skin contact:

Skin to skin contact can also be provided by your significant other. 

Emphasize to your health care provider that you want immediate skin to skin contact after your c-section.

3. Utilize the lactation consultant 

Many hospitals have a lactation consultant available to help moms throughout their breastfeeding journey. 

Breastfeeding for the first time is like hiding from your mom under a clothes rack and when you pop out to scare her, she’s gone. 

The lactation consultant will hold your hand and provide you with endless encouragement and support along with invaluable information.

lactation consultant helping mom breastfeed

4. Breastfeed on demand

Breast milk production is all about supply and demand.

Latch your baby at least every 2 hours to tell your body, “Hey, there’s a hungry human here!”

Breastfeeding on demand is the ideal way to promote milk production. Pumping at least every 2 hours is also effective.

5. Pain management 

Pain causes stress which makes it harder for your body to focus on making milk. 

Take your pain medication as prescribed to keep your pain under control. 

Stay ahead of the pain during your postpartum recovery so your milk supply won’t be affected.

6. Know your why

Knowing why you want to breastfeed will help you get through those tough times like cluster feeding and teething. 

Write down the reasons why you chose to breastfeed and look at those reasons when you feel like quitting during your 3 am nursing session.

7. Set small goals

Having small goals to aim for will help you have a successful breastfeeding journey.

Start with a small goal of breastfeeding through the first six weeks which is the hardest because your body is still adjusting to this new normal.

Once you meet your goal, create your next goal. And don’t forget to celebrate!

8. Give yourself grace

Resting after your c-section is essential for a healthy recovery. 

When you get home from the hospital you’ll be ready to start a load of laundry, figure out what’s for dinner, and make sure you have everything you need for you and baby. 

Resist the urge to “do it all” and spend the first few weeks relaxing as much as possible.

9. Wear breastfeeding friendly clothes 

Having a breastfeeding friendly wardrobe increases your chances of long-term success especially when you breastfeed in public

When you’re holding your crying, squirming baby in one hand and wrestling to lift your fitted shirt with the other hand, you’ll wish you had these nursing wardrobe essentials:

Wearing clothes that make nursing easier will be one less potential problem.

10. Avoid pacifiers

Kellymom recommends avoiding the use of a pacifier for at least the first 6 weeks until your milk supply is established. 

Inform your hospital that you don’t want your baby to have a pacifier. 

And keep in mind that your baby isn’t “using you as a pacifier.” Breastfeeding is also a source of comfort so even when your baby isn’t hungry they’ll still want to nurse to feel close to you.

The best breastfeeding positions to protect your incision

A few nursing positions make it easier and less painful to breastfeed. 

These will be your go-to positions for at least the first 6-8 weeks while you’re recovering.

The clutch or “football” hold

The football hold is superior for c-section mamas because your baby isn’t putting any pressure on your incision.

football hold breastfeeding position

Detailed instructions on the proper way to do the football hold can be found HERE.

The side-lying position

This position also puts no pressure on your incision but can be tricky getting your baby latched in a lying position. 

Once you master it, you’ll love this position, especially while breastfeeding at night.

side-lying breastfeeding position

Step-by-step instructions for the side-lying position can be found HERE.

The cradle hold

This is the most common position many moms use to breastfeed.

Your nursing pillow will protect your incision.

HERE’S how to properly nurse in the cradle hold position.

The shocking truth about preventative antibiotics

Antibiotics are typically given through your IV as a way to prevent infection after your c-section. 

A common problem that arises from antibiotic use is that it kills bad bacteria and good bacteria. 

When too much of the good bacteria is killed, you could get a yeast infection called thrush

This infection is painful and difficult to get rid of. So here’s how to prevent it:

If you get thrush, don’t worry! Plenty of treatment options are available to help you kick it to the curb.

Famous last words…

Breastfeeding may start rocky but these are the best tips to help you succeed.

After an emergency c-section and supplementing with formula, I was still able to breastfeed for over 15 months.  

So even if you have to supplement with formula a few times, don’t stop trying to breastfeed if you’re not ready to. 

Keep your pain controlled and get plenty for a healthy recovery. 

And don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek help. 

Recovering from a c-section is rough especially while caring for a newborn. 

Utilize all the help you can get and educate yourself as much as possible.

Do you worry your baby isn’t getting enough milk?

is my baby getting enough milk cheat sheet

Grab this FREE cheat sheet and no longer worry if your baby is still hungry after nursing! 

the surprising truth about c-sections and breastfeeding

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