by Allison Micarelli-Sokoloff
February 17, 2013
I am scheduled to have a cesarean birth for health-related reasons, and I am worried that I won’t be able to breastfeed. Should I be concerned?
A cesarean birth (more commonly referred to as a C-section) will not affect your ability to produce milk for your baby; however, it is likely to cause some pain, discomfort, and weakness that will have you relying on others for help.
If you or your baby need special care, especially if your baby is born premature or needs to be in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for other health reasons, the start of breastfeeding may be delayed. In the meantime, here are some tips pulled from BREASTFEEDING: A Parent’s Guide that will make it easier to breastfeed after a C-section:
- Breastfeed within the first 24 hours after delivery if possible.
- If the start to breastfeeding is delayed by more than 24–48 hours, begin expressing your milk. A fully automatic electric pump with a double collection kit that allows you to pump both breasts at the same time will work best in this situation.
- Choose a comfortable position for breastfeeding and use extra pillows to provide support and to protect the incision.
- Seek help from a partner or nurse if you have trouble positioning or burping your baby.
- Expect to breastfeed or pump about 8–12 times in 24 hours.
- Breastfeed your baby on request (look for early signs of hunger).
- Breastfeed as long as your baby desires on the first breast before offering the second breast; start your next feeding on the breast offered last at the previous feeding.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes protein and fiber.
- Drink to satisfy your thirst.
- Take short, frequent walks to regain your strength.
- Get plenty of rest (limit your time spent with visitors).
- Hold your baby skin-to-skin. Skin-to-skin care can help your baby regulate her heart and breathing rate and maintain her body temperature.
Pain medication is commonly used by women who have had a C-section. If you need pain medication, be sure you ask your health care provider to prescribe medications that are safe for breastfeeding mothers and babies.
For more on cesarean birth and breastfeeding, see Amy Spangler’s BREASTFEEDING: A Parent’s Guide.