Breastfeeding After a C-Section: 5 Problems & Solutions

breastfeeding baby hospital
When it comes to breastfeeding, some C-section moms may have a bit of a tougher go than moms who give birth vaginally. Various things contribute to this -- your milk might come in later or you might be in too much pain to nurse post-surgery. But don't get discouraged. You can successfully breastfeed, regardless of how you gave birth.

Here are 5 common breastfeeding problems you might face after having a C-section -- and how to overcome them.

Problem #1: Pain from surgery is making breastfeeding difficult. By no means is giving birth vaginally equivalent to a spa treatment, but if you've had a C-section you're likely to be more uncomfortable. The area in which your incision was made will still be tender, so sitting up and bringing a baby to your chest could be challenging.
Solution: Find the right position.
Many experts tout the side-lying position as the best nursing position for C-section mamas, but registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Paula Fitt recommends you go with your gut. "How would take your baby if someone held her out to you?" asks Fitt. "However you instinctively would grab your baby is how you should try nursing. Every body is different -- thin, large, tall, short -- so it’s a personal choice. Do what your instinct tells you and then work around that by trying things like putting a pillow across your belly." Fitt also recommends learning different breastfeeding positions while you're still in the hospital, so you can try to master one before you leave.

Problem #2: You can't see your baby right away. Skin-to-skin contact and immediate nursing after birth are two factors that contribute to breastfeeding success. However, you might not be able to breastfeed your baby right after a C-section for a few reasons -- whether it's hospital policy or a problem that's arisen during surgery.
Put your partner to work. First, it's important to let your doctor know that you're committed to breastfeeding and want to nurse your baby as soon as possible, if that's an option. If it's not, there are a few things you can do. "Have Dad or the birth partner do skin to skin with the baby in the recovery room while mom is in the OR finishing up in surgery," says Jennifer Mayer, a maternity wellness expert and co-founder of Baby Caravan. "Not only will this help mom's milk come in, it will get the baby get ready for breastfeeding once mom is in recovery too." If you and your baby are separated after surgery, Mayer suggests you self-express colostrum for the baby (use your hand or a pump). "This will help stimulate breast milk production," she explains. "The baby can then be fed with a spoon, a syringe or a SNS [Supplemental Nursing System] if needed." Worth noting: Baby- friendly hospitals are extremely good at trying to provide skin-to-skin right away. "If your hospital has achieved that Baby Friendly designation, you know you're going to get good care," says Fitt. So it may be worth seeking one out during your pregnancy.

Problem #3: Your milk comes in later. "Many moms will experience their milk coming in around day 4, rather than day 3," says Mayer. "It isn't the case for everyone, but being aware that it could be an issue is helpful."
Solution: Nurse as often as possible
. "In the early days, nursing as frequently as baby demands is key for getting your milk supply going," explains Fitt. "The more you nurse in early days, the more prolactin you'll produce." Hold off on supplements, such as fenugreek or other herbs, as they may actually result in oversupply. "Don’t intervene until there’s a true reason," she says. "If you trust your body and feed your baby every time he's hungry, you should be okay. If you think you’re going to have trouble, you’re going to have trouble."

Problem #4: You're woozy from anesthesia. You'll likely feel a bit out of it after your surgery and that can affect your ability, or desire, to nurse right away.
Solution: Get help.
Ask nurses, your doula, and your partner to help you with nursing. This may mean having them bring your baby to you, and helping you and your baby get some skin-to-skin time after surgery. If you're concerned about nursing because of the anesthesia, talk to your doctor. "We can’t categorically say that breastfeeding after a spinal or epidural is 100 percent safe, but most observational data says it's okay," says Fitt. "The most we've seen are sleepy babies or moms who aren't very into it."

Problem #5: You feel like you "failed" at birth, so you'll "fail" at breastfeeding. Some moms who have C-sections can feel dissatisfied or unhappy with their experience, and those feelings can carry over to breastfeeding.
Solution: Skin-to-skin.
"It’s such an effective intervention for so many things that go 'wrong' during birth," says Fitt. "It's where where mom and baby can reassimilate. Skin-to-skin truly can fix tough labor, an exhausted mom, and the feeling of disconnectedness during labor. It really raises oxytocin, which helps with nursing." If you can't practice skin-to-skin immediately, don't worry. "I believe, the first hour mom and baby are together needs to be treated as sacred, no matter if it happens right after birth, or some time later," says Mayer. "This is the start to initiating breastfeeding. This process should not be rushed, it's time for mom and baby to bond, connect and 'meet' each other." If you still don't feel good about your birth and feel like it's affecting your breastfeeding, ask to speak with a therapist or a lactation consultant on staff.

breastfeeding after c-section

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