Breastfeeding can be tricky, regardless of the way in which your baby entered the world. But if you end up delivering via C-Section, it can add a few extra complications, particularly if you were hoping for a natural birth.
It is still possible to comfortably breastfeed successfully after a C-Section, and here are our top seven tips for making it happen as smoothly as possible!
1. Breastfeed as early as possible after the birth
Most C-Sections are performed under local anesthetic, or an epidural, so you will be fully awake during the procedure. Providing your baby is healthy once delivered, after a few initial checks you should be able to cuddle your baby on your chest immediately, whilst in the operating theatre. This will allow you to bond with skin-to-skin contact, and allow your baby to begin breastfeeding.
If for any reason this contact is delayed, due to either your or your baby’s health, simply ask to cuddle your baby as soon as it is medically possible. If your baby is born prematurely, and needs to spend time in a special care unit, you can still breastfeed. Let the medical staff know your preferences, and get the midwives to help you express your colostrum as soon as you are able. This can hopefully then be fed to your baby via a tube or syringe, which will help in their recovery, and it will also assist in stimulating your breast milk supply.
2. Try different positions
In the first few days after a C-Section, the traditional ‘Cradle Hold’, where you hold your baby across your body, might be too painful. Try to find alternative positions that don’t put pressure on your abdomen. This might include a ‘Football Hold’, where baby is cradled off to one side (supported by pillows) or in many cases it is most comfortable to simply lie down on your side to breastfeed.
Experiment to find what works best for you and your baby, and if you are struggling, don’t hesitate to ask the midwives or a lactation consultant for advice.
3. Use lots of pillows
Pillows will become your best friends in the early days whilst breastfeeding after a C-Section. If you are sitting up, place a pillow behind your lower back and a pillow under your baby to provide support and a buffer between your sore tummy and your baby’s body.
If you find it more comfortable to lie on your side to feed, place pillows behind your back for support, to take any potential strain off your tummy muscles.
4. Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing
While your tummy wound is healing, it is wise to wear loose fitting, breastfeeding-friendly clothing. This will ensure there is no uncomfortable pressure on your wound, as well as allowing plenty of airflow to assist in healing. Clothing that allows your baby easy access to your breasts for feeding will assist both of you to get the hang of things.
Check out our perfectly comfortable breastfeeding tops here.
5. Rest and feed as much as possible in the first six weeks
While your body is healing, rest is best! It is generally recommended that you don’t lift anything heavier than your baby for the first six weeks while your body heals and regains its strength. To give your baby a great start, feed on demand when possible – often this will be every two to three hours. This helps your baby to thrive and encourages your milk supply.
6. Get lots of support
Support is one of the most important factors that can contribute to breastfeeding success, particularly after a C-Section. Firstly, ensure your partner is on board. Give your significant other the task of fetching you food and water, whilst you and baby rest and feed. Leave the housework or the care of older children in your partner’s capable hands if possible.
Secondly, take advantage of your local lactation consultant and maternal and child health nurse. They can provide support, advice, and encouragement that can be invaluable during those early days. Breastfeeding almost never goes as smoothly as we would like, so take advantage of any tips and tricks they can offer.
Finally, never turn down an offer of help. If you have willing family, friends or neighbours, enlist their help to cook healthy meals, perform household chores, or provide baby cuddles and childcare whilst you rest. If all else fails, and if you can afford it, hire a cleaner!
Sheer persistence and determination can go a long way to ensuring your breastfeeding success. Breastfeeding can be a really difficult skill to master, particularly if you are dealing with the additional pain of healing from a C-Section. While there is never any shame in turning to formula if breastfeeding just isn’t working, appropriate support, a positive outlook, and a whole lot of persistence can overcome many challenges.