Birth and Breastfeeding can be hard. As you begin to learn more about the birth and breastfeeding process, you may begin to realize that the two are actually very deeply connected. Your birth experience can have a very significant impact on your breastfeeding experience. Many times, this may lead a new mom to wonder, "Well, will I be able to breastfeed if I have a c-section?" The short answer is YES! ABSOLUTELY! However, it is very possible that a c-section could affect your breastfeeding experience. Let's discuss some of the ways c-sections can impact breastfeeding and what you can do to mitigate these risks.
Effects of Medications and Fluids
Some medications administered during cesarean sections do carry risks for mom and baby. While these risks may be low or unlikely, there could be side effects such as sleepiness, respiratory distress, heart rate anomalies, etc., for the infant.
The mother could experience negative side effects from medications that make it hard for her to be alert
Some medications may cause slowed lactogenesis onset (ie. milk coming in may be delayed)
IV fluid can skew baby's birth weight making it seem as if baby is losing a larger volume of weight, and may flag need for supplementation unnecessarily
Separation After Birth
Missing out on skin to skin interferes with the biological bonding process and therefore may interfere with the hormonal chain reaction that triggers milk production
Interfering with biological breast crawl process can interfere with neurological foundation-laying for the infant making learning to breastfeed a more challenging process
Skin to skin and frequent and early nursing helps establish breastfeeding.
Separation after birth increases the likelihood of supplemental feeds happening before first breastfeed
Comfortable Positions for Breastfeeding
Learning breastfeeding positions can be hard when you may feel like you have limited mobility
It's important to make sure baby is not putting pressure on or kicking at your surgical incision
Just because a cesarean can increase the risks of facing breastfeeding challenges does not mean that you can't breastfeed. In fact, you may find that you have a very easy healing experience and breastfeeding journey. How can you increase the likelihood of having a positive breastfeeding experience after a cesarean?
Talk to your doctor about the medications you will receive during birth
Take a breastfeeding class to prepare you for breastfeeding, have your partner take the class with you so they can provide the best support for reaching your goals
Ask about skin to skin contact in the OR
If skin to skin is not possible, keep your baby close or have your partner do skin to skin with baby
If separated, smelling a blanket that the baby was swaddled in, looking at pictures, etc can be helpful for triggering hormonal chain reactions (oxytocin)
If separation occurs, pump early to begin breast stimulation and push for seeing your baby as soon as possible
Some people find that the football hold is great for post-cesarean moms because there is not much pressure from baby or pillows on surgical incision site
Give yourself grace and be patient with yourself and your baby
Get help if you need it! Call on your doula, a friend, and/or a lactation consultant to help you navigate this experience. You do not have to do this alone!
As always the information in this blog is intended for information and education purposes only. This information is intended to be used as a starting point for more research and discussion with your provider. This is not intended for medical purposes. Please direct all questions and concerns to your healthcare provider. This blog post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item listed on this page I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Jaimie Zaki, owner of Little Bear Services, LLC is a Birth Photographer, Labor Doula, & IBCLC serving families in South Jersey and Central New Jersey. Mother of three, military wife, and lover of coffee, Jaimie enthusiastically supports hospital and home births in Burlington County, Camden County, Mercer County, Atlantic County, Ocean County in New Jersey. If you reside outside of this service area, there are online courses and virtual support packages available! Jaimie is excited to serve your family! Learn more about Jaimie and the services she offers!
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