Can I breastfeed after a cesarean birth?

A cesarean birth (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.

 Here are some tips to help make it easier to breastfeed after a c-section:

  • Breastfeed within the first 24 hours after delivery if possible. 
  • 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.
  • 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, nurse or lactation consultant 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). 

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.

And keep in mind that 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. Learn tips for feeding a baby who can't breastfeed right away here

For more on cesarean birth and breastfeeding, see Amy Spangler’s BREASTFEEDING: A Parent’s Guide.

Last updated November 13, 2018

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