Figuring out how to feed your baby after birth often comes with challenges. For parents who birthed via Cesarean section, breastfeeding (also called chestfeeding/bodyfeeding) can be a bit more tricky for a few reasons, including how your body is recovering from birth. But that doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed successfully! It just means you may need a little more patience, persistence, and most importantly, support.
We asked both parents and birth professionals (including lactation consultants) to share their best tips for breastfeeding after a C-section. Read on for all the insight and encouragement!
Tips For Breastfeeding After A C-Section
“Do not forget that you are recovering from major surgery! This may very well heighten the anxiety around breastfeeding success. Give yourself grace.”—Alex, C-section mom, New Orleans, LA
“A cesarean delivery comes with its own set of challenges and recovery protocols, which may impact parent-infant bonding and milk production. Skin-to-skin is incredibly beneficial and can be a wonderful start for parent and baby, especially after a cesarean birth. Skin-to-skin gently helps baby transition from the womb to the world, promotes bonding, encourages breast/chestfeeding, regulates baby’s breathing and heart rate, improves baby’s digestion, and increases milk supply. It also helps the uterus contract, which reduces bleeding. Perhaps most important, skin-to-skin elicits oxytocin, the love hormone, which calms both mom and baby, and can decrease the risk of postpartum mood disorders. I could go on and on about the benefits of skin to skin, but you get the point!”—Lana Mihaiyu, Cesarean mom, postpartum doula with Major Care, CLC, IBCLC student
“My biggest tip is to remember your comfort is just as important as the infant’s comfort so get comfy: use the pillows, get the back support, protect your incision, change positions. Also, get help. There is no badge of honor for climbing this mountain of recovery alone. Lastly, center your healing and recovery (ie listen to your body).”—Nurse Nikki, nurse practitioner and lactation consultant and My Fourth curriculum advisor, Houston, TX
“No one is perfect when they first attempt a skill. Babies have a lot to figure out when they are born, give them time, try not to get frustrated, you just had major abdominal surgery! Rest, drink lots of water, eat good food, snuggle with that baby, rinse, repeat.”—Misha Niklewicz, RN, Napa, CA
“People who have had a challenging birth experience ending in surgery may be struggling with trauma and feelings of failure and often consciously or unconsciously place much higher importance on a successful nursing relationship, which can be very healing for both parent and baby after a difficult birth. Folks who get the double whammy of both a negative birth experience AND difficulty nursing can be especially prone to PPD/PPA, so it is super important to surround yourself/the birthing person with loving support (such as a postpartum doula, lactation pros, supportive family and friends) if breastfeeding/body/chestfeeding is important to you. It’s also key to recognize the signs of perinatal mood disorders and reach out for help if needed. If nursing does not work out as planned, it is important to recognize the limits of what we can control and give ourselves grace, AND ALSO honor feelings of loss and grief around difficulty nursing as valid.” —Diana Snyder, Cesarean mom and birth and postpartum doula, WI
“Whether you’re planning your C-section or not, know that it is not uncommon to have difficulty latching after surgical birth. If you are planning it, if you get the OK from your provider, consider hand expressing colostrum starting at 38 weeks. You cab save it in little syringes labeled with your name and keep them in the freezer. Bring them to the hospital with you, so that if you and baby are separated or babe is having trouble latching, they still get that gold!”—Lexi Tabor, CLSC and postpartum doula with Major Care, Cleveland, OH
“You may need help from a partner, support person or lactation professional in your immediate postpartum. That’s okay and that’s 100% normal. Use your resources and get the help that you need with latching, positioning and/or pumping. My number one tip is a breastfeeding pillow! You can buy one like the My Breast Friend or you can simply use a pillow propped under baby. This helps to keep baby off of your incision which can be very uncomfortable.” —Brya Johnson, C-section mama and birthworker, postpartum doula with Major Care, Chicago, IL
“It takes time to feel confident. Feeding a baby at the breast/chest is a learned skill for both you and baby. It can help to have other lactating parents to talk to, so please text friends, follow lactation accounts on social media, and join groups for breast/chestfeeding parents. (yes, even on Facebook!). Normalizing lactation starts with talking about it, including asking for help.”—Carrie Murphy, full spectrum doula, certified breastfeeding specialist, and Major Care Community + Content Director, New Orleans, LA
“It can take a little longer for milk to transition from colostrum to a full milk supply after a Cesarean. All the skin-to-skin (as much as 6+ hours a day) can promote frequent latching, encourages breast stimulation, builds the parent-baby bond, and helps stimulate hormones essential for breastfeeding.”—Jessica McGilvray, CLC and postpartum doula with Major Care, AR
“Figure out a first-floor plan. Stairs are no one’s friend in the first days after giving birth, but it’s especially important for belly birth parents to minimize treks up and down them. If you have a nursery upstairs, I encourage you to create stations on the main floor of the house so you can live there for most of the day in the first 2 to 3 weeks. Set up the bassinet here, as well as a diaper changing station and nursing station for yourself replete with snacks, water, lip balm, extra burp cloths and other new parent life essentials. When and if you do go upstairs to sleep at night, enlist your partner or an overnight caregiver to bring your baby to you for feedings. You need as much rest as possible so you can heal — and avoid the chance of slips, trips and falls due to exhaustion or incision-related soreness.”—Mandy Major, Founder and Certified Postpartum Doula, PCD(DONA), Connecticut