A cesarean birth makes breastfeeding more challenging, but it does not make successful breastfeeding after a C-section impossible. These tips can help!
If you know ahead of the birth that you will need a C-section, you can coordinate with your doctor to prepare for the challenges. Even If you hope to deliver vaginally or at home, sometimes things do not go as planned. You should still discuss breastfeeding with your doctor just in case so you have a birth plan that includes breastfeeding no matter what.
Challenges of Breastfeeding after a C-section
Some of the challenges that you will face after your C-section are as follows:
1. Most mothers attempt breastfeeding immediately after a vaginal birth. The baby’s suckling sends a clear message to the mother’s body that the baby has been born and needs milk. Doctors may not bring the baby to you for an immediate feeding after a cesarean operation unless you make it known ahead of time that this is important to you. If they cannot allow an immediate feeding, then make sure the medical team knows that you want to breastfeed as soon as possible.
2. A C-section requires a longer and more difficult recovery process for the mother. You may find it more difficult to get into comfortable breastfeeding positions and may require more help lifting and moving the baby around during and after feedings. You will need to move cautiously at first so that you don’t hurt your own wounds.
3. Breastfeeding a thriving baby is an act of self-sacrifice in terms of sleep. Mothers give up rest in order to feed their babies every couple hours throughout the day and night. This becomes a challenge after a cesarean because you need your rest in order to recover from the surgery. You can still feed your baby on a regular basis, but you will need a lot of help from others to ensure that you still get the rest your body needs to heal.
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4. It typically takes a mother’s milk longer to drop after a C-section. It is unknown whether this is due to the mother’s body recovering from the shock of the surgery or if it just takes longer for the body to receive signals that the baby has been born and needs milk. It is possibly a combination of both, so feeding the baby as soon as possible after the birth may help get the process going.
5. Babies born by C-section are often sleepy, so they need a lot of stimulation to stay awake for an immediate feeding. You can learn stimulation techniques prior to giving birth so that you are ready for this obstacle.
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Notice that there are solutions to all of these challenges. Breastfeeding after a C-section is possible, and many mothers have done it successfully. You just have to remain committed to the process and work with your body to ensure that your needs are covered while you meet the needs of your baby. With time, your wounds will heal, your milk will drop, and breastfeeding will become second nature for you and your baby.
Tips to Aid Breastfeeding Success after a C-section
The following tips will help you get to that point with as little frustration as possible.
1. Discuss Anesthesia Prior to Surgery
You don’t have to receive anesthesia that knocks you completely out during your C-section. If you let your doctor know in advance that you want to remain as alert as possible so that you can breastfeed soon after the delivery, they can give you all of your options and help you make the best decision for you and the baby.
2. Create a Pain Management Plan
You will experience pain after a C-section, and that pain can interfere with your body’s ability to produce a healthy supply of milk. Healing your wounds to stop the pain becomes your body’s primary concern, but you want your baby’s milk to take priority. The solution is to create a pain management plan that will allow you to remain as relaxed and at ease as possible while you heal.
Your plan will likely include pain medication, so let your doctor know that you want to take medication that allows you to remain as alert as possible so that you can breastfeed when needed. Your plan may also include creating a relaxing, comfortable environment for your recovery, listening to soothing music, and having help around you at all times so that you don’t have to move around too much. Anything that may help you relax and manage the pain naturally should go into this plan.
3. Be Your Baby’s Roommate
It makes sense to allow the nurses to take your baby to the nursery so that you can rest and heal after having a cesarean surgery, but that is not the best option if you are serious about breastfeeding. When you keep your baby in the room with you, there are more opportunities to breastfeed. Just hearing your baby cry can help your body register the fact that the baby is born and needs milk.
You will need a lot of help when keeping your baby in the room with you all the time. You won’t be able to get up from the bed, pick the baby up, and completely care for the baby at first. If you can have family members and friends take turns staying in the room with you, then the time your baby spends in the nursery can be limited. You may even have enough help to keep your baby with you at all times and breastfeed whenever the baby demands it. That is the ideal situation if you want to establish strong breastfeeding habits.
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4. Take Advantage of a Lactation Specialist
Most new mothers are visited by the hospital’s lactation consultant after giving birth. Take advantage of this knowledgeable resource and ask a lot of questions. Request follow-up visits if you are concerned about your ability to continue breastfeeding comfortably. A lactation specialist can teach you a variety of breastfeeding positions, but the side-laying position is one of the most comfortable after a C-section.
Even once you return home, if things don’t go as planned, call the specialist to get additional help. That is what they are trained to do.
5. Get Your Partner Involved
This is not the time to show your strength and do everything independently. Get your partner involved in the breastfeeding process right from the start.
If your baby cries in the night, let your partner get up, change the diapers and bring the baby to you to nurse. When you finish, let your partner help get everyone back settled to sleep as well.
It is also helpful if your partner is present when you learn breastfeeding positions from the lactation specialist. Allow them to put pillows around you so that your body is properly supported while you feed. Also allow them to bring the baby to you so that you don’t have to walk around and lift the baby until you have healed.
Don’t Give Up Breastfeeding after a C-section
Just because you did not have a natural birth does not mean that you can’t breastfeed. With some help, moms overcome obstacles all the time in order to enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding. You can do it too!
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