Monday, August 24, 2009

Tips for Successful Breastfeeding After a C-Section

Here are a few tips that can help you achieve a positive breastfeeding experience, even if your birth "plan" doesn't include a c-section.

Communicate with the hospital staff about your decision to breastfeed.
Plan ahead by letting hospital staff know that you plan to breastfeed before your baby is born. Ask that no bottles, supplements, or pacifiers be given to your baby unless medically necessary, and ask for your baby to be brought to you as soon as possible after delivery. Inquire if the hospital has a rooming-in policy, meaning they let the baby stay in your room for your entire hospital stay. This will give you time to get to know your baby's cues and let you practice breastfeeding. In case you are not able to be with your baby immediately post partum, be sure that your partner (or other support person) is aware of your feeding choices and ready to talk to hospital staff about them.

As soon as you can, put your baby skin-to-skin.
In most cases, you can start skin-to-skin contact with your baby in the delivery room, while the doctor is completing your procedure. Your partner or a nurse can hold your baby against your bare chest until you are ready to be transported to the recovery room. Keep your baby skin-to-skin as much as possible during the first few days postpartum. Skin-to-skin contact enhances bonding and ensures that your breast is readily available when baby needs to feed. It also helps regulate your baby's temperature and heart rate. If your baby is taken to the nursery, encourage your partner to stay with your baby and practice skin-to-skin contact with him until you are reunited.

Be patient, your milk will come in.
There may be a bit of a delay in your milk "coming in" after a c-section, but that does not mean that you can't breastfeed. Put your baby to the breast soon after delivery and as often as possible to stimulate your milk production. Your newborn needs 8-12 feedings in a 24-hour period. Before you start to produce larger volumes of milk, your body will produce colostrum. Colostrum is produced in very small amounts because your baby's tummy is also small. Colostrum is all that your baby needs in his first days of life. You will notice that things change quickly by day 3-5 after delivery. Your milk will change in consistency and color and the volume will increase. If for some reason you do have to supplement temporarily with formula, you can go back to exclusive breastfeeding. Be sure to talk to your doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant about the steps you'll need to take to reduce the amount of supplementation when your baby is ready.

Get some help. Your incision will make it challenging to position your baby to breastfeed comfortably.
Get help with positioning your baby at the breast to feed. A lactation consultant or nurse can show you the most comfortable positions to breastfeed that won't irritate your incision. Usually the side lying position or football hold puts less pressure on your abdomen. It can also be painful to get out of bed and pick up your baby the first few days postpartum. For the first week or so after delivery, have someone bring your baby to you and help you get into a position that is the most comfortable for you and your baby to breastfeed. Use pillows to protect your incision and keep you comfortable while breastfeeding. Also, you may have received a lot of fluid during and after your surgery. This extra fluid may make it harder in the first few days for your baby to latch onto your breast.

Tell your doctor that you plan to breastfeed, many medications are safe to take while breastfeeding.
After your surgery, your doctor will prescribe medications to control your pain. These days, many pain medications are safe to take while breastfeeding. Ask your doctor about the safety and compatibility of all medications you take while breastfeeding.

Make sure your baby is awake enough to feed. Your baby will be drowsy.
Because of the pain medications given during labor and delivery, your baby will be drowsy. It could take several days for the medication to completely leave your baby's system. A drowsy baby may fall asleep early in a feeding and thus, not feed effectively. See the next section for the best way to wake a sleepy baby to feed. Call your doctor or lactation consultant if your baby is sleeping all of the time and feeding less than 8-12 times per day.

Use a variety of ways to wake your sleepy baby.
In our last post, we told you the best way to wake a sleepy baby is to use a VARIETY of stimulation. Use different positions, touch, or words. Removing your baby's clothing is another way to change his environment (temperature or touch) to help wake him. Keep in mind that sometimes it can take up to 10-15 minutes for sleepy newborns or premature infants to fully awaken enough to feed effectively. Be patient!

With a little extra support and patience, you can successfully breastfeed your baby after a c-section. I did it, along with thousands of other mothers. That's not to say it was easy, but knowing what to expect will give you the confidence you need to achieve your happy (breastfeeding) ending.

Next time: Just when you thought the worst was over, waking up again with an older infant.

1 comment:

  1. After my c-section one of the best things I got was a support band for my belly. It made it much easier to handle my baby and move around. I have found it easier in general to breastfeed while co-sleeping, but most especially after a c- section(I have had both types of births).