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Can I breastfeed after a Caesarean Section?

Expert’s answer:

About one in every four babies in Ireland is delivered by Caesarean Section.   Many of these are unplanned or emergency operations, and it can be quite frightening for mum and dad. Some Mums feel very disappointed because the birth they’d planned didn’t happen and they may worry that other plans, like breastfeeding, won’t go so well either. However, there is no reason why breastfeeding can’t be successful for mums who have had a Caesarean Section.

Skin-to-skin

Skin-to-skin as soon as possible after the birth will help. If a spinal anaesthetic (or epidural) was used, the short time before it wears off fully gives you a chance to find a position you like and learn how to latch on your baby comfortably.

Sleepy baby

Babies born by Caesarean Section may be a little sleepy and may need some extra encouragement and stimulation to stay alert during the first few feeds. Ask your midwife to help you get baby to feed if they are sleepy.

If your baby doesn’t latch on to start with, your expressed breastmilk (colostrum) can be given to them. You need to express every two hours until your baby is latching on and feeding well. When they wake up, you can expect them to feed frequently until your milk comes in like every other baby. For mums who’ve had a Caesarean Section, milk coming in may be delayed by a day or so. Don’t worry your colostrum will meet all your baby’s needs until your milk comes in.

Pain relief

A Caesarean Section is major surgery, so be sure to take adequate amounts of pain relief. You will be more comfortable breastfeeding if you’re pain is managed to a comfortable level.

Mums may worry that the medications prescribed for them after surgery will not be safe for their baby. While the medications do pass into your milk in very small amounts, because the amount of colostrum produced in the first few days is very small the amount of medication taken in by baby is tiny and almost undetectable.

By the time your milk comes in you may find that you can manage with lighter pain relief – such as paracetemol or ibruprofen. If you have any concerns speak to your midwife.

 

Antibiotics and thrush

Antibiotics are usually prescribed after a Caesarean Section to help prevent infection. A side-effect of this can be that mum and/or baby develop thrush. Signs of thrush in mum include sore, red, shiny nipples or whitish, vaginal thrush. Signs of thrush in baby include white patches on the inside of their cheeks or roof of their mouth and sometimes a red, sore bottom. There is no need to stop breastfeeding if you or baby gets thrush, but do speak to your midwife, doctor or GP about treatment.

 

Positions

It can be difficult to find a comfortable position for feeding, especially in the first few days after a Caesarean Section. Ask your midwife for help to position yourself and lift baby out of their cot in the first day. In time Dad or your birth partner can help you also.

 

The side lying position or football hold may be good ones to try.

  • Make sure you have plenty of towels and pillows before you position your baby to feed. You’ll find them useful for support.
  • Put a rolled towel next to your wound/dressing, to protect it in case baby kicks.
  • Putting a pillow between your knees if using side-lying position or under your knees if using the football hold can help reduce the strain on your back and tummy muscles.
  • Placing a rolled-up towel behind baby once they’re latched on can help keep them from pulling of the breast once they relax during the feed.
  • If using the side-lying position, you might find it helpful to use the side-rail on the bed when rolling over to feed from the other side.

Signs that your baby is latched on properly

  • Baby has a big wide mouthful of breast in their mouth, with their chin touching your breast. You may notice their top and bottom lips curled out to resemble the letter K.
  • Baby’s cheeks are full and rounded you should not see the cheeks dimpling when baby sucks.
  • Baby’s jaw is moving, you will also see their little ears twitch as they feed
  • Baby starts with short quick sucks then changes to long deep sucks with pauses to breath.
  • You should hear swallowing, not smacking or clicking sounds
  • You will feel comfortable during a feed and your nipples should not be sore or blanched after the feeds.

 

After a Caesarean Section your hospital stay will be longer than for other births, so use this extra time to rest as much as possible and get help with breastfeeding positions.

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