As if getting grips with breastfeeding isn’t hard enough, breastfeeding after a c-section is a whole new ball game.
Barriers to breastfeeding after a c-section
There can be so many more barriers to breastfeeding your baby post-section due to the medication involved and the process of birthing a baby with intervention. Both my children, Piper and Winnie, were born via c-section and I breastfed both of them. I wanted to share what I’ve learned along the way – starting with the challenges that can arise when you have a c-section.
Baby with mucus
C-section babies are usually born with excess mucus in their airways. This mucus is usually bought up in the birth canal. Unless Labour has already begun and you’ve slightly progressed, this won’t have happened and so babies can find it hard to feed or feed for only a short amount of time.
When my second daughter Winnie was born, she had a lot of mucus but was able to bring it up quite quickly. Often giving your baby their first feed can help bring up the mucus.
Possible delay in milk production
The next barrier we could have faced was milk production. When you begin to labour naturally, hormones are released to help your body progress through the stages until baby is born. Those same hormones kick-start your boobs into milk production. If you have a planned c-section, those hormones aren’t released and milk can take longer to come in. I found this happened particularly after my first c-section.
With my second c-section, I had my placenta encapsulated and I found it really helped. My milk ended up coming through on day 3 and honestly, I was so ready for it! However, milk production can also be stimulated through skin to skin during the golden hour, but, this isn’t always possible with a c-section.
Unlike a vaginal birth, you’re not always able to have that all-important golden hour. With my first daughter Piper, they cut her back with a scalpel and so they took her away to have her looked over in NICU. 3 hours later, we were reunited and I always felt cheated out of that first born skin-to-skin experience. With Winnie, I got to hold her in a towel but still have to wait 45 minutes for skin to skin whilst they stitched everything back up. This surge in oxytocin is responsible for maternal bonding, not just to encourage feeding.
So that’s the hard part out the way right… Next up is post-recovery. You’re back up on the ward, the anesthetic is wearing off and wow, you’re in pain.
The effects of medication
C-sections involve major abdominal surgery and recovery from this takes time. You’ll be given pain relief in theatre and between the medication and the anesthetic, your baby will more than likely be born a bit drowsy. This can impact the early stages of breastfeeding. A lazy latch. Lethargy and sleepiness. Sometimes sickness. These are some of things that can be expected post c-section. Those are some big medications for such little bodies.
I particularly struggled with the effects of medication both times but in different ways. Piper was sleepy and I had to wake her to feed but even then, she was too ‘lazy’ to properly latch on. As the day turned to night and night to day, the anesthetic wore off and she become much more alert and feeding improved. Winnie was either drowsy or irritable.
Either way, persistence is key. The more effort you both make, the easier it becomes.
Finding a comfortable feeding position
Next on the section agenda is finding the right position. The anesthetic has worn off and you get yourself into a comfortable position to sit and feed. The recommended position post section is the rugby hold and it really is the less painful route. I used a feeding pillow to not only add some height but it meant my babies were comfortable. Personally, the rugby hold felt more comfortable and realistic for me. Trial and error is the best bet, so try lots of positions until you find one that’s most comfortable and right for you.
I mean, I’m probably not selling it.
The truth is, breastfeeding is the most natural thing is the world but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. Both baby and mama have to put work in to get a good latch and to maintain a good latch.
Breastfeeding in general comes with its own hurdles, chucking in medical intervention and all the fun that comes with it just makes those hurdles slightly more challenging, but definitely achievable.
Winnie and I have reached almost 13 months and we’re still going strong.
My advice to c-section mamas who want to breastfeed
- The choice is yours. If you want it to work, work at it and keep persevering, it’ll all work out in the end.
- Collect colostrum antenatally. It’s recommended 37 weeks plus but speak to your midwife first. It’ll help fill your baby up without putting pressure on yourself to pick it up just like that.
- Don’t be afraid to be primal. Sniff your baby. Have lots of skin-to-skin. It’ll help kick starts those milk-making hormones!
- Water. Water. Water. It’ll flush you out, hydrate you and it’ll all help towards the end goal.
- Find yourself a good feeding pillow, they’re worth their weight in gold.
- If it’s worth your mental health, it’s too expensive. Breast milk whether straight from the source or pumped is best for baby. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It also shouldn’t be something that causes a decline in your mental health. If it doesn’t work, you haven’t failed. Any breast milk is better than no breast milk and it still counts.
Disclosure: This story is someone’s own personal account of their breastfeeding journey. Boobingit is not responsible for any outdated or factual inaccuracies which may appear. Please seek the help of a medical professional should you need it whilst breastfeeding.