Cesarean deliveries, better known as C-sections, account for more than 1 in 5 childbirths worldwide.
With C-section numbers expected to continue to climb throughout the world, we wanted to learn more about the ins and outs of breastfeeding after a C-section with lactation expert, Leslie Owens, RN IBCLC and owner of Mother Nurture Maternity.
So, Leslie, how does a C-section affect breast milk supply?
A C-section in itself does not impact milk supply, however, the circumstances that commonly surround a C-section can negatively impact it.
Does a C-section delay milk coming in versus a vaginal delivery?
Yes and no. The hormonal shift that causes lactogenesis II to occur still happens the same way as it does with a vaginal delivery. Delayed skin to skin and delayed initiation of breastfeeding, separation of mom and baby, surgical pain, etc., can affect milk supply.
Prolactin receptors are laid down in the early hours and days after birth. The less breastfeeding that occurs can mean less prolactin receptors and less milk supply later. Frequent, effective breast milk removal is crucial for a good milk supply, and decreased demand will ultimately cause decreased supply.
What are some feeding positions to use after a C-section?
Many moms find the football position to be the most comfortable position, since it does not put any pressure on the surgical site. A cross cradle works for many moms as well, as long as mom’s body is well positioned and supported well by pillows.
Are there any items that can help with breastfeeding after a C-section?
1. A baby/feeding cart on wheels nearby is a great tool to have, since you can keep all of your feeding and changing supplies nearby. An alternative, if space is a concern, would be a caddy.
2. A binder can support your abdomen and decrease pain, which can make feeding easier.
3. Nourishing, healthy foods that promote healing can speed up recovery, which can help breastfeeding go more smoothly due to decreased pain.
Are there any other tips you have for breastfeeding after a C-section?
If you have a scheduled C-section (as in you know you will be having one ahead of time), make sure you have a postpartum plan. Healing and recovering will be much smoother if you have all hands on deck and each person knows their role. Have realistic expectations that you will need help and time to heal.
Do you have any words of inspiration to help people breastfeeding after a C-section?
Give yourself grace, grace, and more grace. You just spent the last several months growing a human being, and you are recovering from a major surgery while taking care of a newborn. Don’t give up on a hard day. It will get easier and easier over time. I promise!