How to Make the Most of Nursing After a C-Section
C-Sections and Breastfeeding
Undergoing a Cesarean section has become much more common in recent years, with about 31.9% - or just under a third – of all U.S. births delivered this way. Some women elect to deliver via a scheduled Cesarean section, while others must give birth by C-section due to medical necessity. Oftentimes, this brings up questions about having a C-section and breastfeeding, such as if it’s safe to be nursing after a C-section and how your body will react to the demands of breastfeeding after undergoing surgery.
It’s important to remember that women who give birth by Cesarean section can breastfeed successfully. While doing so may present certain challenges, such as delayed mother and baby bonding time following birth, nursing after a C-section (or starting to pump) is highly encouraged. Frequent, regular pumping and/or breastfeeding will initiate your milk supply and help establish abundant production. Here’s how you can ensure a healthy breastfeeding routine, whether your C-section was planned or unexpected:
If your C-section was scheduled ahead of time, this gives you time to plan for your recovery. You’ll likely need some extra help around the household as you heal and bond with your new baby. This can mean leaning on family and friends for support, delegating tasks and chores to others in the household, or even hiring temporary assistance.
Plan to discuss the “golden hour” after birth ahead of time with your surgeon. The golden hour is known as that crucial first hour during which you and your new baby bond and your baby begins to breastfeed, so it’s important to have a plan in place for this to happen - even if it must be delayed. Arranging for skin-to-skin bonding as soon as possible after birth and beginning to pump if your baby cannot feed right away both play important roles in encouraging nursing after your C-section.
- If your C-section was unexpected, you may be rightfully exhausted or you or your baby may have medical needs that must be addressed before any skin-to-skin bonding can occur. That’s perfectly okay, because the safety of you and your newborn is paramount! In some cases, the baby’s father, another family member or someone in your care circle can hold your little one skin-to-skin until you’re able to hold the baby yourself. This may even help your newborn bond with their other parent or another close relative right away!
If nursing after a C-section is delayed or cannot happen in the hours following birth, it is important to begin pumping so you can initiate your milk supply. A hospital-grade (multi-user) double electric breast pump should be used to ensure frequent stimulation and start pumping. A breast pump like our Symphony® PLUS™ with Initiation Technology™ can help express colostrum for your baby. Mothers should also perform hand expression in conjunction with Initiation Technology, however, hand expression should not replace pumping with technology. Remember, it is crucial to continue pumping so your milk volume can increase. Your milk is vitally important to sustain your newborn if you must be separated during these early hours (or for several hours). Request that a breast pump is brought to your bedside, so you can start pumping as soon as an hour or two after giving birth.
Other Important Facts to Know
Medications given for pain while in the hospital are important to take as you’re recovering and are considered safe while breast milk feeding. You should be as comfortable and pain-free as possible while you and your little one are bonding and learning to breastfeed. In fact, being highly stressed or in pain can actually suppress your milk and be counter-productive to successful nursing.
If you received I.V. fluids while in labor and/or during your C-section, a common side effect is temporary swelling in the hands and feet after birth. Your milk may take a few days to become established as the swelling dissipates, but this is usually no reason for alarm. We understand that nursing after a C-section can be stressful! Holding your baby skin-to-skin often and feeding him or her frequently will sustain your newborn as you develop a plentiful milk supply. Be sure to talk to your doctor or nurse right away if you have any concerns during this time.
Once you and your baby are settled at home, it’ll be important to have help with day-to-day household activities like making meals, cleaning, doing laundry, and other chores. Your main priorities during this time should be healing from your C-section, bonding skin-to-skin with your baby, and producing breast milk. Resting will not only allow you to recover after your surgery, but will also ensure easy access for your little one to nurse. Undergoing a C-section and breastfeeding has its own unique challenges, but they are worth overcoming to know you’re providing your newborn with the best possible nutrition right away in life. You got this, Mama!