Did you know...
that April is C-section Awareness Month? The reality is that ⅓ of you moms reading this have, or will, deliver your babies via cesarean. Some of you will plan for it and others will be thrust into it.
No matter your birth plan, risk level, previous experiences, or preferences, you should be prepared in case a c-section is the means by which you get to meet your baby.
So, a quick, high-level overview is in order!
In a cesarean section, or “c-section”, incisions are made through the mother’s abdominal wall and uterus to allow delivery of the baby. This surgery can be necessary for many reasons, such as if the baby is in distress, malpositioned, or due to placenta location.
In most cases, regional anesthesia is used numb the lower portion of the mother’s body, but in some emergencies, general anesthesia is required which causes the mother to be asleep and unaware during the birth.
How might having a C-section impact me as a breastfeeding mom?
Timing and Protocols
In a typical vaginal delivery, babies who are doing well are immediately placed on mom for skin to skin time to help baby acclimate. As we’ve discussed before, skin to skin, or “kangaroo care,” provides countless benefits to baby, one of them being an early attempt at breastfeeding. In the case of a cesarean delivery, immediate skin to skin time may not be possible, and therefore the first nursing session may be delayed. It’s important to discuss this with your doctor in advance, to determine his or her specific protocols for moms in the OR.
Following a cesarean, skin to skin time and the first nursing session should be put into motion as soon as possible to make up for any lost time.
It is safe to nurse your baby following anesthesia/epidural. You can discuss pain management medication for recovery with your doctor, as there are various options available. Just be aware of the drowsy factor with some medications, since a sleepy baby is less motivated to eat. Discontinue medication as soon as you’re able.
It's not easy! Finding a nursing position that’s comfortable for you post-cesarean may take time as well as trial and error. Most women tend to gravitate toward the football hold or side-lying position during the first several weeks until soreness has subsided. The best thing a new mom can do is GET HELP! Whether that’s from a healthcare professional while in the hospital, or from your partner when you’re adjusting to life at home, an extra set of hands to get baby in the most optimal position is priceless!
When the placenta detaches from the uterine wall, a significant hormone shift takes place, signaling your body that breastmilk is now needed. (Although, fun fact: breastmilk production actually begins midway through pregnancy!) This signal occurs in both vaginal and cesarean deliveries. However, if you experience substantial blood loss or other trauma during delivery, you may find that your milk is more delayed. One more thing to be aware of: blood loss, in particular, can cause not only a delay in supply but also a lowered supply.
Be sure to nurse often and pump as needed in the beginning as your body is learning how much milk is needed. There are many, many things that can help with low milk supply, but ultimately remember that breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. The more we demand, the more our bodies produce.
We hope this encourages you to consider how a cesarean delivery might affect you and your breastfeeding journey. We also encourage you to discuss these points and any additional questions you may have with your obstetrician at your next appointment.
And finally, remember that every. single. birth is beautiful and awe-inspiring, no matter how it's accomplished.