Breastfeeding after a c-section is a bit like you just got in a car crash, and now you’re going to climb a mountain. You have no time after your surgery to recover before you start a new journey that will challenge you in ways you didn’t expect. For some, it may be easy. But for many of us, it will be challenging. There will be obstacles in your way, and you will have to learn, grow, and change to be successful.
And yet, even with all the challenges, I absolutely loved breastfeeding after my c-section. Here’s why.
Breastfeeding after my c-section wasn’t just a dreamy time of laying around with my baby watching Netflix. For me, it also included a breast infection so bad there was milk dripping out of the side of my boob, 3 painful round of mastitis, undiagnosed tongue ties, and a lot of tears.
It also meant slowing down, learning how to ask for help, learning to find joy in resting, and having to focus only on my family.
A deep love was born through these trials. As was a whole lot of confidence in myself and my community. Breastfeeding after a c-section is not the only right way to feed your baby. But it can be rewarding in many meaningful ways even if it is harder than climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.
I made this guide because if you want to breastfeed after your c-section, I want you to know that you are not alone in your trials. It is okay to change your mind. And there is more support around you than you have ever dreamed of. If you want to do this, you can totally do this!
The Best Advice About Breastfeeding After A C-Section
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. I participate in the Amazon associates program . I am an independent Bodi coach and work with other brands I love.
Before I get into answering many of the top questions about breastfeeding after a c-section, I want to share with you one of the best resources out there when it comes to being successful breastfeeding. That is education. Breastfeeding has a learning curve for everyone everywhere.
Milkology is a 90-minute class taught by a Lactation specialist about breastfeeding. You will learn how to get a good latch, how to make sure your baby is getting enough milk, and how to properly store pumped milk. If you haven’t take a breastfeeding class yet, I highly recommend it. You will learn so much and reduce your learning curve significantly. The best thing is that the class costs less than $20. And if you’re still in the hospital after your belly birth, you will have plenty of time to watch it.
Your Guide To Successfully Breastfeeding After A C-Section
Why Is Breastfeeding Harder After A C-Section?
Breastfeeding is harder after a c-section because you just underwent one of the most intense abdominal surgeries out there. Have you ever started a race 50 ft behind the start line? This is what it can feel like when you are first trying to breastfeed after your surgery. This is especially true if you first underwent a long difficult labor and then had a c-section after you already drained all your energy and emotional reserves.
After your c-section, picking your baby up and putting your baby down will actually feel like work. You might even need to press the call button and have your nurse help you get your baby out of the bassinet the first day.
Because you had extra fluids during surgery, it may take longer for your milk to come in. It is also possible that your baby was born with extra fluid in their system as well. We’re you puffy and swollen from the fluids? Your baby probably was too. Which means, when they lose this extra fluid weight, it may seem like they are losing more weight than is healthy, when in fact they are just fine. So it is important to learn how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.
It is also possible that your baby will be extra groggy or sleepy after a c-section. This means you may have to keep them awake or undress them to wake them up so they pay attention to your breast and eat.
All of this can sound overwhelming, but, I want to assure you, your body has been preparing to feed your baby for 9 months. It didn’t suddenly forget that there is a baby that it grew and supported that needs to eat. Your milk will come in, even if it takes a tad bit longer. And your colostrum can support your baby quite well those first few days.
Find out what else you can do to support your c-section recovery here.
When Will Your Milk Come In After A C-Section?
It’s common for it to take a little bit longer for your milk to come in after a c-section. But, you can expect your milk to come in the first week.
Usually, it will take between 2 to 6 days for your milk to come in. You will be able to tell when your milk comes in because your breasts will feel full, swollen, tender, and may even begin to feel hard or engorged. You will notice a shift from your breasts producing thick golden-colored colostrum to a more liquid white milk. Y
our milk coming in means that you have shifted from producing colostrum to milk.
As I’ve gained experience as a doula, one thing I encourage moms to do is to begin expressing colostrum at 37 weeks. That way, if your baby needs extra food while your breastmilk is coming in, or if you are separated for any reason after birth, your baby can still have YOUR milk.
What is Colostrum And When Do You Make It?
Just because your milk hasn’t ‘come in’ doesn’t mean that you aren’t producing anything for your baby. In fact, your body started making milk at 16 weeks, and you can even start expressing colostrum to have on hand for your baby at 37 weeks. Before your milk comes in, you will create colostrum, which is a thick golden color and full of nutrients.
Colostrum is the first form of milk your body produces. Your mammary glads make it in late pregnancy and the first few days after giving birth. It is often golden or yellow colored, but some women do produce white colostrum. Colostrum is full of nutrients such as protein, salts, fats, and vitamins. It also has high levels of antibodies that help keep your baby healthy.
Your body will only produce a few teaspoons of colostrum a day. But keep in mind that at birth, your baby’s stomach is only the size of a small shooter marble. It will grow every day, as will the amount of milk you produce if you are nursing frequently.
Tips For Your First Latch When You Are Breastfeeding After A C-Section
When you are ready to try nursing, recruit help. Your doula or nurse is more than happy to help you. Occasionally, moms will nurse when they are still in the Operating Room before they transfer back to their recovery room. But, most often, I have seen that women move back to their recovery room pretty quickly and nurse there.
Once you are together in your recovery room, ask your nurse to help you get skin to skin with your baby. Your baby does expect to feel your skin and it can be comforting for you as well. In fact, if you are experiencing any shakes or feeling loopy from your medications, having your baby against your skin can be very comforting and help your symptoms subside as well.
I do want to point out that you may need your nurse or partner to be the one actually holding and stabilizing the baby on your chest. That is totally normal and just fine. Enjoy this time and don’t feel like you need to rush anything.
When you see baby rooting, go ahead and feed them! Or if it has been a while and you are ready and baby seems sleepy or groggy, you can try to wake him up a little bit. Your nurse can help him latch. If you’re still shaky, your nurse can hold your baby at your breast. If you’re not shaky, you can do it by yourself. Most moms like to begin breastfeeding within the first hour after birth.
The Importance Of Skin To Skin When Breastfeeding
Skin to skin has many benefits for both you and your baby. Many moms notice that it is easier to latch their babies if they are held skin to skin. Skin contact also calms a baby who is upset. If your baby is crying a lot after delivery? Try skin to skin.
Holding your baby skin to skin also helps your body know to produce milk and helps your milk come in appropriately.
Want to find out some even cooler benefits? When you hold your baby skin to skin it releases hormones that reduce stress. This can stabilize your baby’s temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood sugar. It is so good for your baby.
The Academy of Pediatrics recommends Skin-to-Skin be given as long as possible and as frequently as possible during the postpartum period, which is typically defined as the first 3 months of life.
What does it look like when your baby is skin to skin with you? Your baby is placed directly on your chest so you are belly to belly. You can put a diaper on them if you want. Then the two of you are covered with a blanket to keep snuggly warm. Often this happens right after birth, but it has benefits for months and months. If you can’t do it in the OR, do it in your recovery room when you are reunited. Assuming your baby is with you and not in the NICU for any reason.
What Does A Good Latch Look LIke?
One of the easiest ways to understand wht a proper latch looks like and how to get it is to see it. Because of that, I have asked permission to share this video with you.
You will begin by placing your baby’s nose to your nipple. When your baby opens his mouth wide, he takes your breast like a sandwich, getting not just the nipple but some of your areola as well.
It should not hurt to breastfeed. If you have any pain, unlatch and try again.
I always recommend that you should ask every nurse or midwife that comes into your room to check out your latch and give you ideas. That way, you have a wide selection of ideas that you can choose from. You can hold onto the tips that make sense and work for you and leave the other ones behind.
If you are still struggling with a good latch, talk to a lactation consultant or take a breastfeeding class.
Breastfeeding Positions For C-Section Moms
After your first latch, you may or may not need help with your subsequent feedings. You want to aim to have your baby on your breast about every 2 hours until your milk comes in and then at least every 3 hours after that. I recommend reading the book The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding created by the La Leche League to get a good idea of how frequently you should be nursing your babies, or just take that breastfeeding course I told you about!
These positions are typically more comfortable for breastfeeding after a c-section because your baby’s weight is supported and you won’t have to use your abdominals to support them. It will take some time to heal your abdominals and learn to move totally functionally again.
The Football Hold For More Control
The football hold is great for breastfeeding after a c-section because your baby’s weight is not resting in front of you but along your side. I do find this is a little less snuggly and cozy than when you hold baby across your front. That said, it gives you more control and can help you get a better latch.
Baby Totally Supported By A Nursing Pillow Or Pillows
Notice that this is not just a regular boppy pillow but a best latch boppy pillow. The difference is that this has a little extra cushion that holds more of your baby’s weight and tilts your baby towards you. It is extremely comfortable to rest like this and your biggest challenge will be to not fall asleep on the job when your baby does. You can get a similar effect by adding an extra cushion underneath your boppy.
Curious about what else should be in your c-section recovery kit?
Side-Lying Position For The Win
Side lying breastfeeding can take a little practice to get good at. However, once you figure it out, it is so easy it quickly becomes a favorite for many moms. This position allows you to get more rest and to totally relax while you are nursing your little one.
Do You Have More Questions About How Often To Nurse and How Much Milk Your baby Needs?
If you are reading this article and thinking to yourself, wow, I really have a lot more questions, fear not. Breastfeeding knowledge is not out of your each. Check out the Milkolgy class that will go over all the fundamentals you need to get off to the right start.
Breastfeeding After A C-Section When You Return Home
When you return home, you will want to make sure that you continue to eat well and rest well. It will be a while before you are up and moving at your regular pace and that is okay. You can nurse in bed, you can nurse in your favorite chair you can nurse reading a book you can nurse with Netflix. Nursing will be a big part of your life. One mom calculated out how much time she spent breastfeeding in the first year and this is what she found:
“So, I did the math— I’ve been breastfeeding Lilly for 1 year which means (conservatively) I have fed her from my body 5,475 times, which means (conservatively) I’ve have spent 1,825 hours holding her to my breast, which also means (conservatively) my body has produced 342 gallons of milk.”
Breastfeeding after a c-section truly is a commitment and an adventure. It may start out hard, but it will definitely pay you back a million times in sweet smiles and cuddles and a bond so deep you won’t believe it.
Surgical birth does come with challenges, but lots of moms do it and you are not alone. These c-section affirmations can help you prepare your mind for recovery/
And if it’s not for you, that is okay too.