Breastfeeding After C Section: Positions And Tips To Feed

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When natural birth is not a choice, Cesarean section operation is the only way to facilitate a baby’s birth. The to-be parents may also “elect” to have a Cesarean section. Irrespective of whether it is a normal delivery or a C-section, breastfeeding after the infant’s birth is imperative to provide nourishment to the little one as well as to send signals to your body to start producing more milk. But, can one breastfeed immediately after C-section? Can the anesthesia or other medications be harmful to the baby? If you are worried about such details, then read on as MomJunction addresses all your concerns.

Can You Breastfeed After C-section?

Yes, you can breastfeed after a C-section. In fact, medical experts recommend that you breastfeed as soon as you can after the birth of the baby (1). Pediatric experts state that breastfeeding after a C-section can offer several advantages to an infant (2).

Benefits of breastfeeding after C-section:

  • Improves neurological development of the baby’s brain.
  • Benefits the newborn’s cardiovascular health.
  • Stabilizes the infant’s body temperature due to the skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding.
  • Helps with any sadness if birth did not go as planned.
  • Satisfaction of knowing you are giving your baby the very best.
  • Helps establish a healthy breastfeeding behavior and effective suckling by the infant.
  • Boosts the production of milk.
  • Provides optimum maternal satisfaction.

When it comes to preterm infants, breastfeeding has several positive effects on the overall health of the infant. Breastfeed your preemie immediately after C-section birth to ensure a healthy growth (3). If your baby has to go to the NICU or needs to be away from you for medical reasons, start pumping immediately or as soon as you are able to.

However, breastfeeding after C-section comes with a variety of challenges.

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[ Read: Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms ]

What Are The Concerns Over Breastfeeding After C-section?

You may have heard of some complications that may arise from a C-section operation. However, most have a minor effect on breastfeeding:

1. Influence of anesthesia:

The first concern most mothers have while still in the operation room is the probable effect of anesthesia on the infant. Can the anesthesia pass into the baby through breastmilk? The answer is no.

Doctors know that breastfeeding right after birth is important and thus only administer local/ epidural anesthesia. This numbs your lower body whereas the torso has normal sensitivity. It ensures that there is no effect on the upper body parts, including breasts.

Researchers state that epidural anesthesia has no adverse impact on the infant’s health or on breastfeeding (4).

2. Use of pain medication:

Since you are under the influence of anesthesia, you are not likely to feel the pain. However, as its effect tapers off, you are going to feel pain around the site of operation. Pain impulses can interfere with the secretion of oxytocin, the hormone essential for the flow of breastmilk.

Doctors provide an intravenous (IV) drip of pain medicines during surgery to prevent the onset of pain. These drugs are morphine-based and can provide pain relief for as long as 18 hours after surgery. The pain medication does not pass into breastmilk readily and whatever gets transferred has a negligible impact on the infant.

The baby may feel slightly drowsy, but there is no long-term influence on healthy growth. In fact, the first milk, called colostrum, absorbs the least amount of pain medicine. Therefore, it is undoubtedly safe to breastfeed the baby immediately after C-section even if you are administered pain medication (5).

Opioid-based medicines:

The mother could be later prescribed oral painkiller compounds such as oxycodone (sold as Percocet) and hydrocodone (sold as Vicodin), which are opioid-based medicines, or narcotics. These compounds readily pass into the breastmilk, but doctors only administer a concentration that is safe for the infant.

The medication is usually prescribed for just three days (72 hours) in which duration the quantity of milk consumed by the infant is not sufficient to cause excessive oxycodone exposure (6).

Researchers note that the benefits of such painkillers outweigh the risks as less pain equals more oxytocin, which aids better suckling for the infant (7).

But, discuss with the doctor for non-opioid-based painkillers. You can always use acetaminophen (paracetamol) for pain within prescribed limits since the drug is compatible with breastfeeding (8).

3. Effect of antibiotics:

You are administered intravenous antibiotics right after delivery to prevent infection in the surgical wound. However, as antibiotics pass into the breastmilk, only safe antibiotics are given to you. Antibiotics may cause mild side effects, which are temporary, and usually, the effects are assessed by the doctor in the post-delivery routine checkups.

The doctor might tell you to take the antibiotic after breastfeeding the baby, so that there is a long gap between two breastfeeding sessions. This gives ample time for the body to process the medicine, resulting in minimal exposure to the newborn (9).

Antibiotics may seem unnecessary, but experts suggest that these medicines bring down the chances of infection in postpartum mothers. Overweight and obese mothers have a higher risk of infection after delivery. Antibiotics significantly mitigate the chances of infection in such cases (10).

[ Read: Antibiotics While Breastfeeding ]

C-section thus has minimal impact on breastfeeding and the breastfed infant. But, it is not just medication effects; C-section has practical problems too, such as holding your baby in the right position so that it is not painful for you.

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What Are The Best Breastfeeding Positions After A C-section?

You can choose from the following breastfeeding position options, which do not affect postpartum recovery:

1. Pillow supported lap hold:

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Sit on a bed and place a soft pillow on your lap. Place the infant on the pillow stomach to stomach to you in a way that his mouth can reach the nipple. Support the baby with your hands and use the pillow for support. You can consider buying a specialized C-section breastfeeding pillow that lets you have a better hold on the baby while breastfeeding.

2. Lying on the side:

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Lie on the side and nurse the newborn by placing them beside you. You can place the baby on a soft pillow if you feel they are unable to reach for the breast. Wrap an arm around the baby over their head to provide support. You can use pillows under your head, behind your back, and between your knees to provide more support and to get comfortable.

3. Reclined feeding:

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If your back feels sore, then you can feed in a reclined position on a chair. Place small pillows to support your lower back. Alternatively, you can purchase a cushioned chair. Recline in the chair with the baby and breastfeed the usual way.

4. Football hold:

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It is also called a clutch hold. Sit on a bed with your feet folded or extended. Place a pillow to your left or right side, whichever is comfortable. Gently place the baby on their back, on the pillow, with the feet pointing backward and head towards you. Adjust the baby in a way that their head goes under your arm and his mouth reaches straight to your breast. You then get to hold the newborn like a football or a clutch by your side. This hold can be particularly convenient when breastfeeding twins after a C-section as it removes the strain of holding the infant entirely in your arms.

These positions prevent strain on your stitches on the C-section incision.

Below, we have answered some more questions on breastfeeding after C-section.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. When does breast milk come in after C-section?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that, “Your breast milk will come in almost as readily as it would have if you had delivered vaginally”. So, you will not have to wait for feeding the baby.

2. Does C-section affect breast milk production?

The AAP states that the mode of delivery has barely any influence on the breast’s ability to produce milk (11). So, do not worry about your milk supply. Your baby will get adequate milk, and you do not have to stimulate milk production after C-section.

[ Read: Foods To Increase Breast Milk ]

3. Can breastfeeding after C-section affect my periods?

Breastfeeding affects periods, but it does so irrespective of your mode of delivery. Regular breastfeeding stimulates the secretion of a hormone called prolactin that inhibits ovulation – release of an egg by the ovary. Since no egg is released, there is no implantation in the uterus and hence no menstrual periods. Non-breastfeeding mothers or those who feed infrequently return to their pre-pregnancy menstrual cycle in just 15 weeks. Breastfeeding mothers experience a prolonged absence of periods and can have their first period as late as 40 weeks after delivery (12).

4. Can I breastfeed if I had C-section under general anesthesia?

Yes, you can breastfeed. General anesthesia should not affect breastfeeding as you can safely nurse once you are awake and alert enough to hold your baby. It is for this reason that medical experts use and recommend only local anesthesia that transfers in fewer quantities into breastmilk than general anesthesia (13).

5. What if I get diarrhea after C-section and when still breastfeeding?

Diarrhea can be a result of several reasons. You must see a doctor right away to treat the underlying condition quickly. The doctor can prescribe you antibiotics that are safe for use during lactation. Probiotic treatment can also be an option since it is noted to be safe when you are breastfeeding (14).

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Breastfeeding benefits your newborn in numerous ways, and is the ideal food for an infant. There is no reason for you to avoid breastfeeding unless explicitly stated by a doctor. Most medicines, including painkillers and antibiotics, have negligible effects on the baby. Remember, feel free to take help of your spouse and other family members after C-section so that you can focus on nurturing the newborn through breastfeeding.

Have something to share about breastfeeding after a C-section? Leave us a comment below.

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Briana Violand

Briana Violand, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Certified Child Sleep Consultant (CSC), graduated from Tiffin University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant (CSC) through the Family Sleep Institute. She has 8 years of breastfeeding, and countless hours of education and training. She enjoys helping people. Her goals are to educate,... more

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