Starting your breastfeeding journey with your newborn can be a long journey of trial and error, and if you had a caesarean delivery, there may be some further complications you will need to work through. In this article we’ll prepare you for any issues you may have when starting breastfeeding following a c-section.
C-section Breastfeeding Complications
Unlike an unassisted vaginal birth, a c-section is a surgical procedure, meaning that your body has gone through some added stress which could affect your breastfeeding journey.
Firstly, your body will be in pain, especially around the stomach where the incision was made. This means that you may find it harder to maintain support for baby whilst it’s latching.
In addition, you will temporarily have considerably less mobility due to the wound, making it more difficult to find a comfortable breastfeeding position.
You may also find that baby coughs up a bit of mucus during the first few days. This commonly happens during a vaginal birth as they pass through the birth canal. This process clears the lungs, so baby might not be interested in feeding until they’ve got it all up.
If you’re having a planned caesarean, you will most likely know your birthing date, meaning you can prepare ahead of time. From week 37 of pregnancy, you can harvest your colostrum and store it for when your baby arrives. This colostrum can be used to give baby extra feeds if your milk hasn’t fully come in and help kickstart their feeding. If you plan to store your colostrum, speak to your midwife first so she can show you how to express safely.
They often say the first impression is always the most important and in the case of breastfeeding after a caesarean, getting skin-to-skin contact between mum and baby can help your little one begin the bonding process.
It’s thought that babies who start off their lives with skin-to-skin contact with mum are more likely to start breastfeeding successfully due to bonding.
After a successful c-section procedure, you will be able to hold your baby as soon as possible and begin this process straight away. If it’s not possible for you to cradle your little one, allowing your birthing partner to engage in skin-to-skin contact is also helpful.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact include:
- Increasing oxytocin levels
- Allowing baby the time to have first feed
- Encourages baby to latch
- Calming baby and regulating their temperature
- Helps with bonding
C-section Breastfeeding Tips
Due to the nature of the surgical procedure, there are a few complications that you may need to address as you and baby find your breastfeeding rhythm.
Firstly, your body has sustained surgery leaving a wound and overall body fatigue especially if you were already in labour before having a C-section delivery. It’s imperative that you take care of your c-section wound to avoid pain and infection.
When it comes to feeding time, you’ll want to make sure you are in a comfortable position that allows baby to latch effectively as well as alleviating any pain you may be experiencing around your abdomen. During your time in hospital, your midwife will work with you to find a position that works for both you and baby. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to pass you baby so you can avoid twisting and adding extra pressure to your body.
You will also want to make sure you are managing discomfort with the correct pain relief. During this time, you will want to make sure you are taking either paracetamol or ibuprofen rather than aspirin or codeine which are not recommended whilst breastfeeding.
Don’t feel discouraged if baby doesn’t take to feeding straight away. You have both been through a traumatic experience and baby is still adjusting to existence. Allow yourselves the time to adjust to the situation and you may find the feed comes naturally.
Feed baby as and when they are hungry, and for as long as they can feed. This will allow baby to get the right amount of milk and encourage your body to keep up milk production at the rate baby needs.
C-section Breastfeeding Positions
Finding a breast-feeding position that works for both you and baby is imperative. A position that is comfortable for both parties will allow baby to latch well and allow mum to maintain support throughout the entire feed.
With the added element of the c-section scar, you’ll probably want to find a position that keeps baby away from the wound to avoid them accidentally causing pain or damage It’s a good idea to have a soft pillow to avoid tension in the abdomen and around the stitches. Placing a pillow between your legs may also help ease the strain on the wound.
You may want to try lying down to feed in the early days, alternatively you could also try a feeding pillow to reduce the strain of holding baby.
Two positions to get you started are the under-arm hold (commonly known as rugby hold), and the side-lying hold – both of which avoid pressure on your c-section scar.
The Rugby Hold
For rugby hold you:
- Sit in a chair with a pillow at your side.
- Position baby on the pillow under your arm with their hips close to yours. Baby’s nose should be level with the nipple.
- With your palm, support baby’s neck and gently guide them to the nipple.
The Side-lying Hold
And for side-lying hold you:
- Lay comfortably on your side.
- Position baby to lay facing you, ensuring their ear, shoulder, and hip are in a straight line and not twisted.
- For support, position some pillows behind you. A rolled-up blanket can be used to support baby (make sure to move it after you have finished feeding).
- Position the arm you’re lying on under your pillow or head and use your other arm to support and guide baby towards the nipple.
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