Here’s a fun fact most new moms don’t know: breastfeeding after a c section is a completely different experience than breastfeeding after a vaginal delivery.
BUT- that doesn’t mean that breastfeeding after a c section is impossible. Or that it needs to be hard. It just means you’ve got some more learning to do!
If there’s one theme I have found in all of my postpartum recoveries it’s this:
knowledge is power.
The more you know, the easier it is to take care of yourself, and baby.
If you are a mom who is interested in breastfeeding after a c section then you are in the right place!
In this article you will learn:
- the surprising fact about c section babies that completely changes breastfeeding
- incredible resources that will help you breastfeed like a rock star (especially if you can’t afford a lactation consultant)
- five tips from a seasoned mama (that’s me) that will make breastfeeding after your c section so. much. easier.
YOUR BREASTFEEDING BABY AFTER THE C SECTION
Truth time: I don’t know if there is any actual science to back up this claim, but I swear it’s true.
I’ve had two babies via c section and two babies via unmedicated vaginal delivery, and based on those four experiences, here is what I’ve learned about c section babies:
Babies who were born via c section are more sleepy than babies born vaginally.
BOOM! Did I just blow your mind?
And I’ve hear from other moms in my free Facebook group for c section moms (click here to join) that they’ve observed the same thing about their c section babies.
Because you will likely be on heavy duty pain killers, those will transfer to baby through you milk and make him or her a little extra sleepy.
(Don’t worry, your doctors won’t give you meds that aren’t safe for baby and YOU need them to recover).
There are two main reasons why a sleepy baby can make breastfeeding a bit more challenging:
- baby might not want to wake up often enough – or stay awake long enough – to eat enough
- baby might struggle to latch and suck correctly
Your body is relying on baby to tell it how much milk to make, so if baby isn’t taking in enough milk at each feeding session – or eating often enough – that can impact your milk supply later down the road.
And of course, a good latch is absolutely key to breastfeeding success. If baby is to sleepy to latch correctly every time, it could lead to lots of pain for you!
RESOURCES FOR SUCCESSFUL BREASTFEEDING AFTER YOUR CESAREAN
Have you ever heard this saying:
“Breastfeeding is completely natural.”
Ugggg, I hate that saying. It’s completely true, but it drives me nuts because it makes moms think that breastfeeding is natural so it’s easy.
And that just isn’t true. Breastfeeding is hard work and comes with a steep learning curve.
And the absolute best thing you can do for you and your baby is to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding. Especially the specifics of breastfeeding after a c section.
In addition to the tips listed below I highly recommend a breastfeeding class that will help you learn the ins and outs of breastfeeding.
Milkology has fantastic, affordable, online breastfeeding classes for new moms. I recommend “The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class” as the perfect breastfeeding basics class.
Milkology also offers classes that help working moms develop a strategy for pumping when they return to work, as well as a class just for increasing you milk supply (hint: some c section moms find low milk supply to be a big challenge).
And with no class priced over $30, you won’t find a better class at a better price anywhere else!
Honestly, I wish I would have known how little I knew about breastfeeding before my first baby (who was also my first c section baby). I didn’t even know that it mattered how he latched, and by two weeks in I was so miserable that I completely hated breastfeeding.
I didn’t know how amazing it could be, and I regret not doing any research or finding any resources to help myself make it better.
Since then I’ve learned a TON and my breastfeeding journey with my other three babies has been wonderful.
Learn from my mistakes and get informed now – even you’ve already welcomed baby. It’s not too late to learn.
Tips for breastfeeding after a c section
So what is the best way to ensure breastfeeding success after a c section? Remember that your baby will likely be a little more sleepy and will need extra support breastfeeding. Spend time learning the basics of breastfeeding (you can do that by clicking here), and follow these tips below:
Offer baby plenty of opportunities to breastfeed
Ok, the first tip: make sure your baby has plenty of chances to nurse.
In those early days it’s important to have baby at the breast as often as possible. When it comes to breastfeeding “practice makes perfect” definitely applies.
The more you and baby practice latching and nursing, the easier it will get. And I promise- it does get easier!
Most breastfeeding experts recommend rooming-in with baby, which means baby stays with you in your hospital room instead of going to the nursery. This is becoming standard practice for most hospitals in North America.
If this isn’t a possibility for you – for whatever reason – try to offer baby the breast when you can.
Skin-to-skin is also a great way to boost your supply and encourage baby to latch whenever he wants. Which means there might be a lot of latching, short nursing sessions, and then unlatching. And that’s ok!
Pro-tip: My motto is “when in doubt, whip it out”. If baby is hungry, tired, cranky, wanting mom, anything…..just put him on the breast!
Make sure baby is awake to nurse
Remember that whole “c section babies are sleepy babies” thing? Yeah, here’s where it starts to become a problem.
When it’s time for baby to eat – like really take in milk, not just suck for comfort – it’s going to be best for both of you if baby is awake and alert.
He’ll be a more willing participant in the nursing session which means he will latch easier and drain your breast better – and those are both good things.
Babies know how to latch instinctively, they want that nipple in their mouth because they know it’s how they’re getting fed. So you just need to appeal to their natural instincts to help them want to latch.
My number one trick is undress baby down to his diaper.
One of my favorite nurses once told me:
“A nake-y baby is a wake-y baby”
Not to worry, baby will warm up when he’s snuggled against your breast & nursing.
You can also encourage baby to wake up by gently rubbing your nipple under his nose, and dripping a little bit of milk onto his lips.
If you still can’t get baby awake get him warm and let him sleep for a few more minutes, then try again. Stick with it until you get him latched and nursing like a champ!
Make sure baby is latched correctly
Checking that your baby is latched correctly is just good breastfeeding practice no matter what.
In fact, having a correct latch is probably my number one breastfeeding tip of all time. The latch will make or break your breastfeeding, so do plenty of research and ask lots of questions.
Want to know more about how to get baby latching correctly? Check out the only breastfeeding class that guarantees to have you breastfeeding like a pro in 90 minutes.
And just remember, if you’re in pain (like toe-curling, back-arching pain) when baby latches, he’s not latched correctly.
Having said that, knowing that your baby will likely be pretty sleepy, one of the biggest challenges in breastfeeding after a csection is a proper latch.
What you might find is a sleepy baby = a lazy baby. Meaning he’s not willing to open his mouth all the way for a proper latch.
Don’t be afraid to demand a proper latch from your baby.
And by demand I don’t mean yell at your baby Gordon Ramsay style. I do mean unlatching and re-latching him until he is latched properly and nursing well.
With my second son I remember some nursing sessions when I would unlatch and re-latch him close to a dozen times before we got it right.
But it was worth it because after about a week of that (it was a long, frustrating week) we had the perfect latch with minimal effort.
Try different breastfeeding positions
Trying different positions for nursing is also good breastfeeding practice. Regardless of how your baby was born. You might be surprised what actually feels comfortable (and successful) for you and baby.
As a c section mom, you’ll want to try different positions. You might find the traditional position – with baby lying across your tummy – is more than a little uncomfortable.
In those early days post cesarean surgery I found a football position to be most successful. This is where you tuck baby under your arm like a football!
This position allowed me to easily latch my son without irritating my tender abdomen. Also, I could then hold a plate of food in my lap…..bonus!
Pro tip—-use lots and lots of pillows to position you and baby properly. Even building a little nest of pillows in your lap can help you nurse baby in a traditional cradle hold.
p.s- I do NOT recommend a Boppy or special breastfeeding pillow for c section moms. These pillows are meant to rest against your stomach and can be really uncomfortable on your incision.
My personal favorite is just a plain old king size pillow with a clean pillow case. That’s it. Simple, much less expensive (especially if you already have king size pillows at home), and it will rest across your lap without pressing on your stomach.
Be patient when breastfeeding after a c section
Be patient. Give yourself plenty of grace. If you need to give baby a bottle sometimes because you’re in pain, that’s ok.
If you insist on nursing baby no matter what, that’s ok too. What is most important is that you are listening to your body and to baby’s body.
Take care of yourself – this means rest, water, and good food. And be patient with baby.
And remember, it’s ok to give your baby a bottle if you need to. It’s not the end of the world if baby gets formula for a little bit.
Do what is best for you and baby.
TL;DR – Breastfeeding After a C Section
Pro-tip: babies born via c section can sometimes be very sleepy, which can make latching and completing feeds more difficult.
Here’s what to do about it:
- Offer baby plenty of opportunities to breastfeed
- Undress baby to help him wake up
- Get your latch right
- Try different breastfeeding positions
- Be patient- breastfeeding come with a pretty steep learning curve so don’t give up if you don’t get it right away.
- Bonus tip- don’t forget to seek out help if you need it (this online breastfeeding class would be perfect for you!)
Breastfeeding after a c section comes with it’s own unique challenges, but don’t get discouraged. It is absolutely possible! Good luck, mama!