by Dr. Melanie Jacobson, NC IBCLC
Did you know a c-section birth can affect your breastfeeding experience?
Caesarian births are associated with delayed lactogenesis II, meaning, a delayed transition of colostrum to breast milk or breast milk ‘coming in’. Also, it can often lead to a delayed initiation of breastfeeding, due to the birthing parent’s recovery, comfort, and stress levels. Under these circumstances, a parent’s commitment to breastfeeding plays a major role in its duration. And let us not forget, a caesarean birth is major surgery, and therefore the parent’s post surgery recovery and mobility must also play a role in the breastfeeding experience. These challenges can be even more impactful if the caesarian birth came after a long exhausting labour.
But the good news is, there are ways to prepare for a c-section birth that can support your breastfeeding journey, as well as steps you can take after the birth!
Below are a few recommendations that parents can use when prepping for their caesarian birth and actions to take afterwards.
Before the birth:
1-Get educated on how breastfeeding works and the steps that you can take to support your experience.
Because of the potential challenges in breastfeeding after a c-section birth, it is so important for new parents to get educated before the birth and understand breastfeeding specifics so that they can pick up where the birth left off, no matter what kind of birth they have. This detailed prenatal breastfeeding education can ideally be done in the third trimester. Regardless of the kind of birth you have, breastfeeding education is invaluable for first-time parents.
2- Have your supports ready to help!
Regardless of the type of birth you have, you will need help. Keeping your supports up to speed with your breastfeeding intentions, will also help them understand where your priorities lie once the baby arrives. They will understand the importance of supporting the parent during the first 2 weeks postpartum as breastfeeding is being initiated. Remind them that you will need extra support with meals, everyday household chores as well as changing, diapering and bathing baby while you rest and work on breastfeeding.
3- Rest, eat and drink healthily and enjoy the days leading up to the birth.
Going into the experience feeling calm and rested may set the tone for your birth experience and certainly help with recovery. If you are having a planned c-section, speak to a birth professional to find out how your recovery can be best supported.
4- For planned caesarians, consider speaking to your OB and local IBCLC about colostrum harvesting.
Colostrum harvesting is when you hand express and freeze colostrum before the birth. This may allow you to use the harvested colostrum at the hospital after the birth to feed baby, along with breastfeeding. Colostrum harvesting must only be done after 37 weeks gestation and must be done under the guidance of your birthing team.
After a c-section birth:
1-Place the baby skin-to-skin with you in the operation room and in the recovery room whenever possible.
If you are feeling drowsy, be sure to have someone with you to help. Otherwise, the baby can be skin-to-skin with the other parent or closest support. Skin-to-skin offers both physical and emotional benefit to both the baby and the birthing parent.
2-Don’t rush your recovery.
The hospital staff will be monitoring your level of comfort and awareness until you feel confident in holding your baby on your own. You may need some time to sit up comfortably to hold your baby. Take your time. Do not rush your progress. You will be able to hold your baby comfortably, in several breastfeeding positions in a couple of days.
3-Allow baby full access to your breasts.
Along with skin-to skin, the suckling, bonding and oxytocin released by having baby latched will help to initiate your breastfeeding journey and feel calmer.
4- Support milk transition and your breast milk supply by:
- Frequently stimulating your breasts via breastfeeding.
- The football hold may be your best position for the first couple of days if the other holds (cross-cradle, cradle or laid back) hurt your incision. But not to worry, you will be able to try these new positions in a few days.
- Be well versed in hand expressing. You can express colostrum even after baby has breastfed and especially if baby was not very active at the breast. A baby born via a surgical birth may be more lethargic, especially if the birth followed a long labour, so expressing your milk might be necessary in the early days.
- Skin-to-skin is especially important in the early days so maintain this whenever possible
5- Be gentle and kind with yourself.
You just went through major surgery. Your body will have an easier time to pick up where the birth left off by:
- Nourishing yourself with healthy food
- Hydrating with water and warm drinks
- Most importantly, having your little one close by to snuggle
Lactation 101-The BEST thing you can do to prepare for Breastfeeding
An online prenatal breastfeeding course that gives you all the tools you need so you can nurse your baby confidently from birth to weaning.
Do you have a Health Benefits Plan? This course may be covered.
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DR. MELANIE JACOBSON, ND IBCLC Hi! I’m Melanie Jacobson. Professionally I am a naturopathic doctor and lactation consultant. Personally, I am a wife and mother of 2 amazing girls. I believe that prenatal education and early hands-on support can help new parents feel confident, connected, and empowered through their postnatal and breastfeeding journey. Background and Experience After studying at the University of Toronto and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine to become at naturopathic doctor, I gained valuable international experience in the United Kingdom and Australia. The knowledge and experience acquired from working and living abroad has been indispensable to me as a practitioner and mother. Upon my return to Toronto, I practiced for many years as a Naturopathic Doctor. After having my own children, I received my IBCLC designation to provide lactation consultations and expanded my clinical practice to focus on postnatal wellness and lactation support to families in the west end of Toronto.