Whether you know in advance you are having a c-section, or it is a last minute change of plan, many mothers wonder if this will have any impact on breastfeeding. It’s certainly true that there are a lot of very unhelpful urban myths around. Here, I’ll try to help you understand the impact of having your baby by caesarian section on breastfeeding.
You can definitely breastfeed!
One of the most common myths is that your milk comes in later after a c-section. This is not strictly true at all. Delivery of the placenta is what triggers your milk coming in. Your body is SO clever, it doesn’t think your baby has arrived until your placenta is delivered. Whether your baby is born vaginally or by c-section makes absolutely zero difference to this hormonal process.
Why is breastfeeding after a c-section potentially harder?
Well, there are 2 main problems: pain, and stress. These two problems are not unique to c-sections. They would also be true after a traumatic vaginal delivery, or a car crash, a house move, or a broken leg. Your body requires a zen atmosphere to make milk! After a c-section, make sure you take regular pain killers and have supportive people around you who can de-stress you! More information here in my earlier blog.
Stress activates your body’s fight or flight response, and this will inhibit your hormonal response to make milk – the two processes cannot co-exist effectively at the same time. You may feel anxious or stressed about:
- The surgery itself
- Your recovery
- Other children at home
- Horror stories you’ve heard
- Being cold, hungry or in pain
- Feeling inhibited about others watching you breastfeed
Whatever it is you feel worried about, try to resolve that particular issue. So, if it’s childcare for other children – rope in grandparents, friends or siblings. If you feel stressed about people barging in when you and your baby are semi-naked having skin to skin, put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, or draw the curtains around if you’re in hospital. Ask a midwife to help keep people away! New mums are often so busy enjoying their baby and resting, that it’s common to forget to eat. Keep a bag or box of snacks that do not need to be kept in the fridge out at all times – my favourites are: nuts, dried and fresh fruit, cartons of juice, crisps, chocolate and crackers. Keep your blood sugar levels up and you’ll avoid the hunger stress that can creep up on you!
Do I have to use different positions to avoid my scar?
In the first few hours and days, it’s common for most c-section mums to choose a side-lying position. Babies often like this too, and it’s a good one for night feeds, as you can still lie down and rest/nap. You might feel less anxious about your baby accidentally kicking your tummy if you have a pillow, or rolled up towel over your scar.
Is it safe to take pain relief whilst breastfeeding?
Heck yes! But don’t take my word for it! Check this amazing website where you can type in whatever drug (either prescribed or over the counter) and it will tell you if it’s safe. Failing that, contact the Breastfeeding Network.
How can others help me?
This is the time to be a princess. Outsource every possible task you can think of! Others will be looking for jobs to do. Try writing a list of jobs – or leave this article printed out for a not-so-subtle hint!
- Looking after other children
- Laundry…… to name but a few!
What are the best pieces of advice to make breastfeeding after a c-section go well?
- Arm yourself with resources and knowledge
- Take pain killers (even if you’re not in pain)
- Feed as soon as possible after your baby has been born
- Feed very frequently (at least 10-12 times in 24 hours)
- Make sure your baby is feeding effectively. If he isn’t, get help, and protect your milk supply with regular expressing
Rest assured mama – you’ve got this. If you’re struggling at any time, just like any other mum, get help early, and keep asking for help.
Lyndsey Hookway is a paediatric nurse, health visitor, IBCLC and holistic sleep and behaviour coach. She works privately at www.feedsleepbond.com as well as for the NHS and as an independent lecturer and trainer. She offers webinars and bespoke training for health professionals, childcare, sleep and maternity carers and parents. Her first book – Holistic Sleep Coaching – will be published in Autumn 2018.