Breastfeeding After a C-Section
You are awesome. Your advice smackdown and blog are awesome. They have kept me amused and answered many a parenting question throughout my first year of motherhood. I am a big believer in the Read Everything And Anything You Can Get Your Hands On And You Will Be Fine technique for getting through life, so during pregnancy I stocked up on oh, maybe just 12 or so pregnancy books plus subscribed to every single pregnancy week by week internet thingy I could find (except for yours, as I did not find it, in fact I’ve purposely not read it since so I can read it as a treat to myself during my next pregnancy because I am weird). All of them said the same thing. I still read them all, religiously, in the correct week/month. And yet since actually becoming a mother, your columns have been so super helpful I have indulged in but 2 parenting books. Such is your wisdom (and word count). My partner and bank account are super grateful.
Anyway, I now find myself planning a second pregnancy that will likely end in a c-section. (Totally my own choice as I decided I would absolutely not be falling pregnant again unless I absolutely KNEW I would be allowed a c-section; vaginal birth sucks, well at least mine did. And now I have that, we are going to start trying next month.) So, I have two kind of question/requests: I know you breastfed all your boys, and I wondered if your c-section impacted the start of that at all? I am not even pregnant yet and the Midwives I’ve met with to discuss my future options are already telling me my baby is unlikely to breastfeed in a bid to get me to change my mind. I very much want to breastfeed and though I know plenty of babies born via c-section breastfeed successfully, it would be lovely to hear some anecdotes of what the supposed challenges are so I’m prepared for them.
And lastly, as an over-planner and avid shopper in advancer, I was wondering if you could give me a C-Section Recovery Kit List. I am super psyched to start stocking my bedside table for all my post-c-section needs/start instructing my poor, poor partner in his upcoming duties.
My extreme nesting issues seem to be kicking in rather early this time.
I am sending some Beyonce-sized shade at your midwives right now. What a horrible myth to perpetuate, the idea that c-section babies are unlikely to breastfeed. Gurl, plz.
Look, anecdotes are just anecdotes and my babies/boobs/births are not yours or anybody else’s, and just because X happened to Y because of Z doesn’t mean that it will happen to you. I’m sure some c-section babies have issues breastfeeding. But come on: plenty of v-birth babies do too.
I had three babies, all c-sections. I breastfed all three of them. My difficulties with my first baby were NOT because he was born via cesarean, but because of a bunch of other extenuating circumstances. (He was huge, had a weak suck/oral motor issues, I had breast scarring from a botch cyst aspiration, then severe nipple trauma from bad latches, THEN thrush. All of this culminated in constant low supply issues. Also I just generally didn’t know what I was doing or how to react when things weren’t going smoothly.) My second and third babies nursed like champs right from the get-go — I NEVER saw any evidence that they were sluggish or drugged or anything like that. They were snuggly and new and HUNGRY. My boobs were primed with colostrum well before my c-section date, and getting my babies on the boob triggered my milk supply and post-birth uterine contractions, so not going through labor did not impact the breastfeeding process one bit.
Here’s what you do need to know about c-sections, however:
1) You will get IV antibiotics during and after your c-section. The antibiotics mean a higher likelihood of you or your baby getting thrush. So you will want to take probiotics to counter this. You can ask your midwife or lactation consultant about the timing and the dosage — I started a basic OTC dose a couple days before my surgery and continued for about six weeks. (I didn’t do this with baby number one and got a mild case of thrush. Baby two and three were thrush free.)
2) My milk always seemed to take a little longer to fully come in than for “other people.” I have no idea if this was a c-section thing or an Amy’s Boobs things — I did go through labor and pushing before my first emergency c-section and had the same problem, but I’ll never know “for sure” if my milk took longer because I didn’t give birth vaginally. I’ve written other columns with tons of tips to improving low milk supply and encouraging your milk to come in — herbal supplements, Mother’s Milk tea in the hospital, pumping after nursing as soon as you’re home —so you might find those helpful. (Just be careful you don’t go overboard and get oversupply, in case your milk supply is not impacted by the different manner of birth. Talk to a lactation consultant.)
3) Get a compression band for your stomach. I recommend a Belly Bandit. Yes, these get marketed as slim-down/weight-loss/vanity garments but they are LIFE-CHANGING after a c-section. Good incision support and incredibly helpful for moving around and getting in and out of bed without pain. I only used one with my third baby and frankly, don’t know how I made it through the recovery periods without one.
4) Once your incision is well and truly healing, put a silicone scar sheet on it. ScarAway or something similar. Totally helps minimize the scar’s appearance. Also talk to your doctor ahead of time about whether they use staples or stitches to close the incision. I had stitches and am biased towards them (my three-time scar is tinnnnnny), but your doctor might achieve similar results with staples.
And that’s really all I’ve got. Other than to suggest you still manage your expectations. C-sections are not necessarily a walk in the Birthing Park, even when scheduled — a lot depends on your anesthesiologist, doctor, nurses and pain management. You won’t be allowed to shower for awhile, which sucks, and you’re looking at a full six weeks until you’re fully recovered and cleared for physical activities. This can be tough when you already have small children to care for. BUT. You can absolutely 100% definitely breastfeed just fine after one.
Published August 25, 2014. Last updated March 14, 2018.