Breastfeeding is supposed to be this amazing, natural, process. Before your baby was born, you may have taken a childbirth class or read a book to prepare yourself for breastfeeding. Yet here you are home from the hospital with your baby depending on you to feed him and wanting no part of this breastfeeding thing.
Instead of having a joyous time bonding, you feel depressed, you’re struggling…. in tears… because something that was supposed to be a piece of cake isn’t happening quite the way you expected.
Don’t fret mama. You’re not alone. Breastfeeding after a c-section may be challenging. C-section births create some obstacles, but nothing that can’t be overcome. If you just had a c-section, the first step to breastfeeding successfully is to avoid stress (Stress is a key contributor for milk supply issues)! Read on for some tips that will help you breastfeed your baby successfully after a c-section.
You may need to pump.
To make sure that your baby gets colostrum right away, and that your milk production gets off to a good start, you need to nurse or express colostrum. Your hospital should provide you with a breast pump if you are not able to nurse right away, but hand expressing may be the best way to stimulate your breasts to get the first colostrum out. Don’t be disappointed if you only make a little at first. You might look at what comes out of your boob, and think this is it. Is this even worth keeping? Colostrum is so important for a new baby and your baby only needs a little.
Your milk may not come in as quickly.
Everyone says your milk will come in eventually, but your home, your boobs are home, but your milk is nowhere to be found. This is a very common issue with moms who’ve had c-sections. Don’t panic. Understand that c-sections can slow things down a little. Your baby may not have been able to breastfeed right away or as frequently due to your c-section. This doesn’t mean your milk isn’t going to come in. Be patient with your body, and keep putting your baby to the breast. The more your baby nurses, the more your body will stimulate your milk production.
Before you go out and buy supplements or formula, understand that your baby only needs colostrum for the first few days. If your baby isn’t able to breastfeed, you can hand express or pump colostrum for your baby.
While you are waiting for your transitional milk to come in, nurse your baby often, around the clock. Even if your baby doesn’t seem interested, keep offering the breast. Eventually, you will start noticing your breasts feeling fuller and milk leaking out of them. You will start noticing your baby making active swallowing noises as they nurse.
If your transitional milk hasn’t come in after 4 or 5 days or your baby's stools have not changed from meconium (dark, tar like stools) give your pediatrician a call and reach out to a lactation counselor.
Your baby may have issues with latching
When you’re in the hospital you have nurses are around to help you get your baby to latch. Some babies get the hang of this during the first few days after birth, but if you’ve had a c-section, you and your baby might not have had much time to practice.
You might have been separated from your baby after birth. Depending on the reasons for your c-section, your baby may have spent time in the NICU as well. All of this is stressful. If you weren’t expecting a c-section, your whole birth plan and breastfeeding plan might have been thrown right out the window. So how do you get things back on track?
Getting your baby to latch correctly can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. In the hospital, you may have been taught one technique or position, but there are actually several methods for latching. Finding what works for you may take a few tries.
Even though breastfeeding is supposed to be natural, babies don’t always instinctively figure out how to nurse, especially if they have gotten used to taking a bottle. If you’ve tried waiting for your baby to just latch on, try using the following tips and bringing your baby to your nipple.
Here are some tips for getting that good latch:
Turn baby close to you with their tummy facing you to
Line up baby's nose to nipple and wait for baby's mouth to open wide to allow the baby to tilt the head back and open the mouth wide for a deep latch
Bring baby into breast quickly, with chin leading, to get an asymmetric and deep latch
Check out our free download Latch ABC Guide here for more tips. If you are still struggling to get a good latch, reach out to a Certified Lactation Counselor or seek help.
Picking your baby up to nurse is painful
C-sections are major surgery. If you had any other type of surgery, you would be resting for a few days and definitely not lifting anything. Even though your baby is small, the incision is located at the bottom of your abdomen. Every time you move, it hurts. How are you supposed to pick up a baby, when it hurts just to move?. Don’t expect to be hopping around right after you’re c-section. Plan to spend time with your baby in bed. Keep a pillow close by and be strategic with your movements.
One way to minimize the pain is to use a pillow to brace your abdomen when you nurse. Use the pillow to give you support as you lift your baby to your breast. Plan on a baby staycation in bed. If you can, have someone help, by bringing you the baby to nurse, during the first few days after your c-section so you don’t have to pick your baby up.
You might find it easier to avoid moving altogether and prefer to breastfeed on your side, in the side-lying position.
How do you do the side-lying position?
Lay on your side with a pillow under your head and a pillow behind your back for support, if needed
Place baby on their side, facing your breast.
Line your baby's mouth up with your nipple to get them to latch
Check to make sure their latch is good and not painful
You can also place a pillow behind your baby's back to support them
Avoid using bottles as much as possible Sometimes it is impossible to do this after a c-section, especially if your baby needs to spend time in the NICU. Usually, if you can get your baby taking the breast as soon as your home, this is not a problem. But some babies develop nipple confusion quickly. If you have issues getting your baby to breastfeed, start working with a lactation counselor right away. They can help you with positioning and latch techniques to get your baby nursing.
Most of all, go easy on yourself. You just performed a miracle. Giving birth is an amazing feat. Breastfeeding after a c-section can be stressful, but you got this mama.