In February, I was rushed into theatre for an emergency c-section to birth my son following a twenty hour back-to-back labour. My gorgeous son, Jack, was born in a flurry of emotions, wrapped umbilical cord and shock. The birth I had planned and practiced in my head did not go to plan but my dream baby was here. However, breastfeeding after a c-section was the first thing on my mind.
Little did I know that the birth was only the start of a tough few weeks and that breastfeeding wasn’t going to be as dreamy and easy as I’d imagined.
It’s no shock that major surgery can have an effect on the way you feed your brand new bundle of joy but there are a few things I can share to help make your journey smooth, comfortable and enjoyable!
From the best feeding positions for your incision to tips on how to maneuvre when in pain, I’m here to encourage, help and save your breastfeeding journey.
From the mummy of a happy, healthy and thriving baby boy, exclusively breastfed five months in, I am here for you!
Can You Breastfeed Right After a C-Section?
The simple answer is yes, absolutely!
C-sections can take away that “golden hour” of skin to skin, complications can lead to not being able to hold your baby and you may not be able to get the picture perfect birth you had planned.
But, you can absolutely 100% breastfeed after a c-section birth.
In my experience, I was lucky enough not to lose tonnes of blood. The surgical team had to take some time to clean my incision and sew me back together again. I was able to see Jack but couldn’t hold him while being stitched back up due to upper body numbness.
Once he was born, I was in theatre for a further 35 minutes being looked over and looked after. As soon as I was wheeled into recovery, I was given my gorgeous boy to hold, coo over and begin establishing skin to skin.
That’s where our breastfeeding after c-section journey began. Even though I was still numb and in shock (it all happened very fast), I was given Jack and shown how to get him to latch.
The lovely midwife held most of Jack’s weight, wiggled him around until he found his groove and kept tickling his feet to make sure he stayed awake long enough to get a good first feed in.
Instantly, I felt a bond and we were off and running!
What Are Some Issues You May Encounter When Breastfeeding
After a C-Section?
Breastfeeding is tough – it’s grueling in the cluster feeding days, it can be tricky to establish and it is also quite painful.
Add to that your recovery from major surgery, swelling and lack of sleep and you’ve got the perfect storm for a tearful new mummy trying to navigate motherhood and breastfeeding.
My recovery meant that I was unable to get myself up unaided – whether that was up from a lying position, up from the sofa or up from the toilet. It meant that my fierce independence was on the back burner for a few weeks.
When discharged from the hospital, you are advised not to lift anything heavier than your new baby and that, ideally, they should be handed to you.
This meant that I had to get myself into the ideal position to feed him before he was handed to me. It took a bit of practice, patience and uncomfortable sitting to get it but we got there!
The toughest part for me when breastfeeding post c-section was not being able to pull myself up at night time when Jack stirred or cried. I was unable to lie on my side and was almost beached in a flat on my back position. Every time he made a peep, my husband had to get up, pull me gently into a comfortable position, get Jack out of his cot and place him on me.
Then, once we were done, he had to do it all in reverse – being careful to help me back down on my back for sleep!
How To Plan for Early Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding before your baby has arrived is like learning how to ride a bike – but without having the bike.
A lot of it is learning on the job but you can prepare for some certainties!
Be sure to speak to your midwife, NCT group etc. about the best feeding positions, the importance of the latch and any support you may need.
Invest in some good quality nursing bras and ditch the underwire as early in your pregnancy as possible.
Speak to fellow mums and try to feel out what breastfeeding is like.
Collect colostrum once you are over 37 weeks – it’ll get you used to the idea of breastfeeding, help you understand patience and the importance of oxytocin in milk production.
And, invest in a feeding pillow. It’ll double up as a pregnancy pillow that can rest between your legs at night in the latter stages of pregnancy and will become your prized possession once your little one arrives!
Which Breastfeeding Positions Work Best After a C-Section
Breastfeeding after c-section means that you will have to be more aware of feeding positions compared to someone who had a vaginal birth.
Your incision is right across your tummy, core and centre of your body. Even a still, gentle baby and their weight can put pressure on an area that is very sore.
Here are my favourite post c-section breastfeeding positions to try:
1. The Rugby Hold
Sit yourself comfortably in a deep seat and place your pregnancy/nursing pillow to the side you’d like to feed from, under your arm and close to your hip. Place baby’s nose level with your nipple – you may need to pull them back so they feel like they’re almost behind you but this will help to achieve a deep latch!
2. The Cross-Cradle Hold (With Pillows)
Support your baby’s weight by crossing them over the front of your body using a pillow. Place your arm between their legs to keep them stable and allow them to latch while snuggling into you. Use the pillows as a buffer between you two where possible and to help distribute some of the weight.
3. Laid-Back Post C-Section
Lie down on your back and get comfy. Have someone place baby onto your torso (be sure to keep your incision covered where possible) and let baby naturally root for your nipple. You may need to prop their head or offer extra support using a pillow but do what feels natural. Most of baby’s weight should be across your upper body and shoulders.
4. Koala Hold
Sit upright with plenty of pillows behind your back. Place baby on your lap with their legs straddling yours. Gently position them to face your nipple and ease them on to latch. Adjust yourself using pillows.
Tips for Successful Nursing Following a C-Section
Breastfeeding post c-section is a real journey, it takes a lot of strength, perseverance and patience. No matter how you feel right now, just know that you’re doing an amazing job.
Here are my tip nursing following c-section tips:
- Use pillows to support yourself, your position and your baby’s weight where possible.
- Have a stock of snacks, drinks and your phone near you when feeding – some cluster feeding sessions can take a while so be ready to snack while you feed.
- Ask for help. It’s true when they say it takes a village to raise a baby so use them. Let people come around and see the baby but also ask them to make their own cups of tea, hold the baby so you can rest and pass you snacks.
- Be kind to yourself. Only you can breastfeed your baby and it is no mean feat. Remember it’s one day at a time.
- Never quit on a bad day. There will be bad days, long days and days and nights without any sleep. Allow yourself to feel these emotions but don’t ever quit on a bad day!
- Experiment with positions and try different ones that suit you. My go-to is the rugby hold, it’s convenient for us and it lets the sofa and cushions do most of the heavy lifting.
Cake Maternity Is Here
Breastfeeding post c-section is beautiful, incredible and amazing but it is not without challenges. Use my top tips from the best breastfeeding positions post c-section to planning to breastfeed from early pregnancy.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself and remember mama, you’re doing an amazing job!