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Tips for feeding baby while managing your C-section recovery
Breastfeeding is the best way to nourish your baby, delivering optimal nutrients to them and even preventing certain illnesses. If, however, you’re recovering from a cesarean section—whether unplanned or planned—and intend to breastfeed, jumping right into a nursing schedule immediately after giving birth might seem daunting. Although C-sections are generally safe, they still count as major surgical procedures, so paying attention to yourself and managing your own recovery will be important, even as you start your breastfeeding journey.
With this in mind, know that you can still breastfeed after a C-section. Here are some things you should keep in mind.
Nursing After a C-Section
For an easier introduction to nursing, experts encourage moms to start breastfeeding right after birth—within the first hour, if possible. If you’re feeling up to it after your C-section, you can even nurse baby right there in the operating room with the help of your partner or a nurse. You should aim, from then on, to breastfeed often. According to KellyMom’s Kelly Bonyata, BS, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), nursing early and often is key to keeping milk production up. She writes, “breastfeeding at least every two hours during the day with a nighttime span no longer than four hours is highly recommended—you’re aiming for 10 to 12 feedings per 24 hours during the early weeks.”
If you’re unable to start nursing straight away—maybe because you’re separated from baby during the early days of C-section recovery or for some other medical reason—our resident IBCLC Katie McGree suggests getting on a pumping schedule to stimulate milk production until you can start nurse exclusively. “Even if pumping was not part of your plan, it may be temporarily necessary in order to initiate milk supply during this period of separation until your baby can take over,” she explains. “As soon as your baby is stable enough to breastfeed, you can transition from bottle to nipple.”
Milk Supply After a C-Section
A C-section won’t inhibit milk production since this is caused by a hormonal reaction that occurs when the placenta and uterus are separated. So, when does milk usually come in? It usually arrives between two and six days after birth.
If you’re having nursing issues such as struggling to get baby to latch properly, seek out the help of a lactation consultant. A consultant will be able to address your concerns and hopefully get you on track with your nursing schedule and milk production. Need to be set up with an IBCLC? The Lactation Network by Ashland Women’s Health provides 90-minute in-home lactation consultations, with no out-of-pocket costs to you if you qualify through insurance.
Breastfeeding Positions After a C-Section
When nursing after a c-section, there are several positions that will allow you to safely feed your little one while avoiding the incision site. Right after birth, you may find it’s easiest to nurse while laying on your side. Later on, it might be easier to do a modified version of the football hold, keeping the baby higher than the incision site and using a breastfeeding pillow for support. There’s no best way to breastfeed after your C-section, so try some different positions and see what works best for you and baby. You can also work with an IBCLC to find the best positions for you.
Painkillers and Breastfeeding after a C-Section
It’s likely that you’ll receive intravenous or oral pain killers after a c-section in order to manage post-op pain. You’ve been through a major surgery, after all. Although traces of any drug in your bloodstream will be present in your milk, this ultimately won’t make your milk any less safe or ingestible. According to KellyMom, the most likely effect of taking pain meds during this period is that your milk might make baby a little tired. If you’re nursing and taking pain medication during C-section recovery, just make sure to monitor your newborn and note any changes in his or her eating, sleeping or temperament to your healthcare provider.
Breastfeeding after a C-section may take some work, but it can be done and the rewards are so worth it! That’s why the team at Ashland Women’s Health is here to help you through your breastfeeding challenges and successes. For more resources on breastfeeding and pumping, visit our blog. Contact us to find out more about our insurance-covered breast pumps.