Breastfeeding after a cesarean section: Six tips

September 01, 2018

Breastfeeding after a cesarean section can be a challenge on the day of birth and for the weeks to come. Tips come in all shapes and size, just like nipples! Everyone and their mama want to tell you what to do. This is where education comes into play. I know I tell you in every post (If you aren't reading them, shame on you!) Education is vital. Seriously, what success comes from being unprepared? NONE!

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Breastfeeding education has to be a priority when you are pregnant so that you will overcome the adversities when the baby is born.

I think I need to come up with a theme song about education and childbirth.

So onto my breastfeeding tips for a c-section mama. This is a short list. I suggest reading as much as possible.

Check out Labor Nurse Mama Cesarean Masterclass

Breastfeeding After a Cesarean Section

Planned vs Unplanned

Okay, the truth of the matter is that many of you reading this may end up with a cesarean section. It truly stinks and if I were your nurse I would advocate for you making sure you're not getting a c-section because your doctor wants to get to a soccer game. (Sorry Doctor, but we all know those guys exist)

According to the CDC, almost 32% of all women end up with a cesarean section. Think about it, when I had Ian, 28 years ago, most women I knew had a vaginal delivery. How about you? Would you not agree, that now, you know a lot more moms who end up with a cesarean section.

While Anna was pregnant with Asa, I did mini birthing classes with her, one on one. The main point I had to her about cesarean sections, was don't give in easily. There are valid reasons for a cesarean section and guess what, Anna ended up having a cesarean. I could safely say that we were both not prepared for that happening. I mean, she is young and healthy, what the heck? Anna's cesarean section was one that I totally agreed was necessary. Asa had no amniotic fluid and his heart dropped into the '60s for nine minutes. He is a miracle and I credit my coworkers for their quick actions.

All this to say, you may end up one of the statistics, therefore be prepared to fight for your right to skin to skin immediately. (You got to fight for your right.....to breastfeed) This will lead to successful breastfeeding after a cesarean section (or at least get you off to a great start)

Related Breastfeeding reads: Nipple Pain: Tips from a nurse

Number one take a breastfeeding class and educate yourself.

Breastfeeding after a cesarean section: Tip #1 PAIN 

Pain changes the game. Be prepared to feel like hell, and if you don't then that's a pleasant plus. I understand that many people think of cesarean sections as a form of birth, but it's also major abdominal surgery. I watch them weekly and trust me when I say there is a reason you hurt like stink. It's a tad rough on the body.

First off, they cut through all the layers to get to the uterus, cut the uterus, stretch the opening, and then pull a human out of your body. Enough said. It's a surgery and not a birth option. It should be because of medical reasons and not fear.

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EDUCATE YOURSELF.

According to my friend, who chose to have a cesarean; "Trish was the only one who told me the truth." She was miserable for weeks. The fact that she was older and older moms heal slower made a messy situation. I unsuccessfully tried for weeks to talk her out of it, but she did not listen.

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Not only does the pain make the initial feeding difficult, but the pain makes breastfeeding in general difficult while you heal. Poor Anna would struggle up and down out of the recliner. It was painful to watch.

Related Post: Breastfeeding Myth Buster

A nursing pillow is a necessity. Seriously, this is a no-brainer. It's one of the few items, besides our Lula nursing gown, that I recommend bringing into the labor room. You will love me for supporting it. Hospital pillows suck, and most often we can't find more for you to utilize. I also suggest having it in a marshalls bag or something easy to carry and protecting it against yuck.

Check out the support the ergo baby pillow gives. No slouching for momma or baby sinking down into the crevices. I highly recommend this one.

Ergobaby nursing pillow

I'm also a fan of the boppy pillow which is an oldy but goody. If you are uber creative like anna, then you can also sew covers, which match your style.

I've heard great things about the breast friend pillow, but I can't see how this could be utilized immediately to breastfeed after a cesarean section, at least in the immediate post op. There ain't no way; you would let me lift you up and wrap this around you after surgery. Once in your postpartum room, this would be fine.

A nursing pillow will make your life so much more comfortable while dealing with pain. Take it with you when you visit your family or keep it in the car for impromptu feeding.

PAIN IS A GAME CHANGER!

Stay on top of the pain medications. Take Ibuprofen around the clock, as prescribed. Do not skip a dose of medication initially, even if you feel better. Stay ahead of the pain.

Breastfeeding after a cesarean section: Tip #2 Skin to Skin

Hospital policies sometimes bite. So, if you are a planned cesarean, start discussing your thoughts and desires NOW. Do not wait until you are in the hospital. If you can get your doctor on board for your wishes, he/she has the most power to fight a policy.

The trend to allow skin to skin in the OR is on the rise, but it's slow to come to the east coast. I don't know why we are stubborn I guess. I've been working as a travel labor nurse in California for many years, and those peeps know what's up. It literally changed the way I view stupid hospital policy and what I as the RN can do to advocate for my labor patient.

Listen, momma, it's totally doable to do skin to skin in the OR. It's usually the anesthesia provider or nursery nurse who will fight you. So be patient and persistent.

Read related post: The first breastfeeding after birth.

Read related post: The importance of skin to skin.

If the hospital policy is against it or says it's not possible. Search baby-friendly hospitals, print all the info you can. Have those handy at your next doctor appointment. Let's cause a change to happen for our babes.

Now, there are times that YOU may not want to do skin to skin. In this case that your partner/Daddy can do skin to skin immediately for your baby. This doesn't happen often but it's worth trying and I for one would help you get your wish. If daddy accompanies the baby to the nursery, he can certainly do it there. If they say it's not possible, politely ask them to get him a warm blanket and a chair. Everyone is going to hate me later but that's ok.

Breastfeeding after a cesarean section: Tip #3 Abdominal Binder

Girl, do not hesitate to ask for an abdominal binder. Many hospitals offer them, but many do not. It will be your best friend during your recovery. Breastfeeding after a cesarean section is more comfortable with an abdominal binder. But be sure that it fits properly. Usually, there are two sizes, make sure you get the correct size. It should not ride up into your breasts. It should sit under them and be snug.

Breastfeeding after a cesarean section: Tip #4 Get moving, but slowly.

The best thing you can do to start your healing process is to get up and move around your room. This gets everything back to order and prevents blood clots. Moving is vital to recovery from any surgery but very important for you, as you will also be caring for a newborn. Take short walks frequently, building up to longer ones.

6 Breastfeeding Tips for First Time Moms

Breastfeeding after a cesarean section: Tip #5 Take it easy

Ok, Momma's, I know that some of you are like me and on the go. If you are breastfeeding after a cesarean section, you need to slow it down. Slow way down. Slower. Do not plan on doing much more than baby doctor visits and your doctor visits for a few weeks. Seriously. Please do not overdo it. Your body needs to heal. You may think of a cesarean as a birth method. Which it is a way to have a baby, but first and foremost, remember that your body was cut open to remove the baby. It's surgery. A medical procedure and you need to heal.

While in the hospital, be patient with yourself and take it easy. Breastfeeding after a cesarean allows you to at least sit and relax. So take advantage of this.

When at home, do not lift anything over the baby's weight. For example, do not carry the car seat with the baby in it. This is a no-no. I know, I know....but don't.

Breastfeeding after a cesarean section: Tip #6 Accept help and meals!

Listen, you may have labored and then had a cesarean. Or maybe you had a planned section, and you exhausted yourself trying to get everything done ahead of time. Either way, if you're breastfeeding after a cesarean section and someone offers help, you better jump on that crap. Do not play martyr and saw no thank you. Accept every meal offer and even aunt Martha's cleaning your house. It may not be the perfect and up to your standards but let her clean it, however, she wants. You sit in that recliner, accepting drinks, snacks, and breastfeeding that little nugget. These days move by very fast.

As always, If you are a first-time momma or even a mom of five. Educate yourself. Be prepared and know your rights.

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Just a little Disclaimer: As always, I am just writing my thoughts and learnings. Although I am in fact a labor and delivery RN, this is not medical advice. You should always seek and follow the advice of your caregiver.

Also, this post may contain some affiliate links (which means if you purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Click here for our full disclosure. Thank you!

This group, board, and guidance have been absolutely invaluable.

I was extremely comfortable asking questions, making decisions and even though nothing went according to my "plan", I couldn't be any happier with the way everything went!!!
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- Stacy A.
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