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You planned for parenting. You read all about pregnancy and your new baby. Maybe you took a breastfeeding class (kudos to you!!). What you probably didn’t prepare for was the reality of having a C-section. Because the majority of C-sections are unplanned, moms get taken by surprise and suddenly they’re in new territory. That’s only natural. Breastfeeding after a C-section can be a little bit of a challenge, but nothing you can’t overcome.
Since you have a brand new incision to care for, and you’re probably stuck on your back with one arm limited by an IV, you’ll have to adjust your movements and expectations.
Let me just say, I’m proud of you for bringing your new baby into this world and loving her so well. You’re gonna do great!
Breastfeeding after a C-section? Get the party started!
The sooner you can get started breastfeeding, the better.
Within the first hour is best – but the truth is, you may not have that opportunity.
You probably want your baby laid on your chest so you can get started right away – but that may not happen when an unplanned C-section is required. Or any C-section for that matter.
What if there’s a delayed start?
Most C-section surgeries turn out fine and everybody is healthy. But there is the rare occasion when an emergency happens and someone needs serious care. Sometimes mom and baby are often separated out of necessity.
But even if you are immediately separated from your newborn and nurses have to give her formula for some reason, you can still start breastfeeding as soon as you’re reunited.
And some moms start their baby on formula because they don’t intend to breastfeed. Then they change their minds after a day or two. Totally fine. In fact, it’s awesome!!! They can still breastfeed!
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Just because the first hour is crucial, doesn’t mean you missed the boat if you didn’t breastfeed in the Sacred Hour after birth. What’s important is that you start as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the easier success is likely to be.
Breastfeed almost constantly
Your newborn is going to be a hungry little hippo for a few weeks. Exclusively breastfed babies sometimes nurse every hour and a half. (That’s normal – not a sign of an issue with milk supply!) So if your baby looks hungry, feed her. If she fusses, feed her. And if she just looks cute, offer her the breast.
Because the more often you nurse, the better you guys get at it, the sooner your milk comes in, and the more milk you’ll make. So nurse all the time in the beginning.
Lots of skin-to-skin contact
Skin-to-skin contact is seriously one of the best things you can do for your baby. At the risk of talking too much, lemme give you a quick list of some ways skin-to-skin contact benefits your both:
- Helps regulate a newborn’s body temperature
- Reduces stress for the baby and the mom
- Builds the baby’s immune system
- Aids in the development of the brain and nervous system
- Regulates baby’s blood sugars
- Increases mom’s milk supply
- Encourages healthy breastfeeding
- Promotes emotional bonding
That list isn’t all-inclusive. There are many, many ways skin-to-skin contact benefits you and your baby! According to BreastmilkCounts.com, it even lowers your risk of postpartum depression. So do it often, and not just in the first few weeks. This is a practice you wanna keep up for as long as you’re breastfeeding!
Related Post: 5 Reasons skin-to-skin contact is amazing
Longer hospital stay = more time with a lactation consultant!
Q: What’s leaky, lucky, and most likely to succeed?
A: Your boobs spending time with a lactation consultant!
You may think moms who delivered vaginally are lucky. Maybe in some sense. But YOU get more time with a lactation consultant. Use it! Whenever you’re about to nurse, call the lactation consultant to come in and watch you get your new sweetie latched. She can help tweak your method or find an easier way. And who doesn’t love an easier way??
Since latching is seriously the most important part of breastfeeding, ask her to teach you. Have her monitor you to make sure you and your newborn have NAILED IT before you leave the hospital.
Related Post: How to always have the perfect latch
Once you start to monopolize the lactation consultant’s time, take notes on everything she says. Lactation consultants are there to serve mothers like you. This is her passion (I hope), and a good lactation consultant will appreciate your plucky resolve to soak up all her advice.
So interview her. Ask her oddball questions that interviewers would ask like:
- What breastfeeding pitfall do you see most?
- What’s the one thing you wish all breastfeeding moms knew?
- What’s your breastfeeding pet peeve?
- What’s your top piece of advice for succeeding with breastfeeding?
- What’s one breastfeeding product you think is absolutely necessary?
- What’s one breastfeeding product you think is a waste of money?
While you’re stuck in the hospital a day or two longer than normal, make the most of this time and get to be
Position, position, position
Position can be tricky after a C-section. Immediately after, you’ll be stuck on your back. The easiest thing for your first feeding is to have somebody lay your baby belly-down across your bare chest. Babies have an amazing capacity to breastfeed after birth and with a little guidance from you, can probably nurse just fine. You might even get to see the amazing breast crawl!
Once you’re able to get off your back, a cradle hold may be too painful on your incision. Two great positions for breastfeeding after a C-section are the football hold (where you hold the baby next to your side with their head in front of your breast and their feet behind you) and laying on your side to nurse.
Related Post: How breastfeeding position is your secret weapon for success
Side laying is my favorite position because I’m lazy. ? You can just close your eyes and relax while the baby nurses.
Don’t be shy about asking for what you need
Right now, your mobility is limited, your sleep is even more limited, your hormones are a little haywire, and you’re trying to care for a stranger who doesn’t speak your language.
Ask for help. Even for minor things. Doctors, nurses, friends, family, significant other, older kids, hospital janitor…if they’re nearby and you have a need, voice it.
Because as great as people are, they can’t read your mind. And they won’t think of that one specific thing you need.
You just did the miraculous by bringing life into the world. It’s totally expected that you’re going to need assistance with a few things.
Even after you’re out of the hospital, don’t be afraid to ask for help with cooking, cleaning, or taking care of your baby. Remember all the people who said “Let me know if you need anything” and you said okay? Now is the time to take them up on their offer. Let them know you need a meal prepared or some clean clothes
Just Say Yes to Drugs
In the ’90s there was this anti-drug campaign called Just Say No. If you ever heard it, now’s the time to forget it. You’re going to be in pain after a C-section. Some of the pain hangs around trying to make you miserable, and some of it shows up in bursts of white-hot pain to remind you that you had your tummy cut open.
When the nurses offer you medicine, take it. Even if you’re not hurting!
You see, pain medicine doesn’t just get rid of pain — it keeps it from coming up in the first place. You’re not going to win bravery points by refusing pain meds – you’re actually just setting yourself up for misery. So when they offer it, just say yes.
Take your pain medicine – and take it as often as you can.
If your uterus cramps while breastfeeding, it’s not because you’re doing something wrong. Uterine cramps are a sign that your uterus is trying to return to its former state. Uncomfortable it may be, but it’s a good thing.
Uterine cramps happen after every pregnancy, regardless of the method of delivery or how the baby gets fed. So you’d be feeling it even if you were bottle feeding. It’s just part of childbirth.
You just got cut open. Sorry to be blunt, but we get so caught up in our gorgeous babies that sometimes we think pain is a sign of something being wrong. Nothing is wrong when you hurt, you just have to heal.
It’s a really good idea to use lots of pillows to support and protect your incision. It eases discomfort and protects you from unnecessary jostling. Especially when you’re holding your baby.
I recommend getting a cute throw pillow to take everywhere with you. So if you laugh, sneeze, cough, go potty, or strain in any way, you can squeeze that sucker. It really is helpful.
Try to hold your baby in a way that takes the pressure off your tummy. That may be by balancing her on your chest, laying her next to you, or snuggling her in a football hold. See the part above about positions.
Keep your newborn close
Keep your newborn as close to you as safety allows. Definitely in your room as often as possible. Have her touching you as often as possible. It’s good medicine for her, for you, and for your milk supply.
I strongly recommend a baby wrap so you that your baby can have your nearness while you still do the things you need to care of. This nearness keeps your milk supply healthy, while at the same time comforting your baby.
Set up a nursing station
Nursing stations are awesome! It’s essentially just a cozy spot with everything you could possibly need while breastfeeding.
It’s a good idea to have a phone charger already plugged in, and a nice basket with the following: burp cloths, an extra shirt for both of you, a receiving blanket, snacks, drinks, tv remote, hair ties, chapstick, notepad and pencil, nipple balm, diapers and wipes, a book or magazine, and an iPad or tablet, and anything else you think you’ll need.
Getting up and down with a baby isn’t so easy, hurts your incision, and means you have to keep working to get baby latched all over again. But when you have all this stuff at your fingertips, you won’t have to get up once you’re settled in. So you can relax and just focus on breastfeeding.
Take care of you
The best mommy for your baby is a healthy mommy. So be sure to eat well, drink lots of water, rest as much as humanly possible.
Seriously, prioritize cat naps!
Lower your expectations for
Try to somehow get a little bit of alone time to do something just for you each day. That might sound ridiculous right
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And please don’t stay cooped up indoors the whole time you’re on maternity leave! You’ll drive yourself crazy or get cabin fever. Try to get out for a short stroll, or just go sit in the sunshine. Find a way to get outside.
Life won’t be quite what it was, but it’ll be tolerable if you make room for just a tiny bit of self-care every day – with cat naps, sunshine, and a little Me Time.
Love from NursingtheBaby
Congratulations on your new baby! Perhaps the C-section wasn’t the delivery of your dreams, but you still gave birth to an amazing little person. Breastfeeding after a C-section isn’t all that hard – at least, not all that much harder than breastfeeding after a vaginal delivery.
Here are the ways to rock breastfeeding after a C-section: making sure you breastfeed as soon as you can, nursing as often as possible, keeping your baby close and getting lots of skin-to-skin
You and your baby will be breastfeeding masters in no time at all!
What’s your favorite tip for breastfeeding after a C-section? Please comment below and share it!