The Truth About Breastfeeding After a C-Section
C-section is one of the most common surgeries in the world. In the United States, one in three mothers will experience a c-section. I am one in three.
My first son was born by c-section after a very long and exhausting labor. My postpartum recovery was horrible and emotionally draining.
Additionally, my baby and I struggled with breastfeeding during those early weeks. I have many friends who had a c-section and breastfed. Not all of them had difficulties breastfeeding after their surgery, but other moms struggled right after birth and for weeks after that.
Check out these stories from real moms to see the range of experiences possible.
“I had a really positive experience with breastfeeding after my c-section with my second child. After I left the operating room, they took me to recovery where Addy met me about 20 minutes later. She immediately latched on, and my milk came in two days later. We went on to nurse for two years.”
“The biggest challenge I had with breastfeeding after a c-section was drifting off to sleep while nursing because of the IV morphine and Gravol. When I'd fall asleep, my hold on baby would lessen, and he/she would end up with a very shallow latch, which caused a lot of nipple trauma/damage. I got no advice for that one because I needed those meds.”
–Laura Nelson, mom of 2
“I didn't have any problems producing milk; however, when my twins were born, one of them went to the nursery for observation, and she needed something to help regulate her blood sugars. They told me they were giving her formula.
“I begged them to let me go down and try to nurse her, but they wouldn't let me since I'd just had a c-section, despite the fact that I'd moved myself off the operating table. I have no proof, of course, but I feel like the fact that the first thing she had was a bottle is the reason she NEVER latched (without a shield). That was devastating for me.”
“I was pretty gorked out and sick after my c-section for about three solid weeks. I couldn't move my body as I was used to. I was also afraid my incision would open back up, so I was moving super gingerly (turned out it opened back up anyways).
“My daughter had issues latching that honestly I was too out of it to work on as hard as I guess I should have. She was finger fed (mostly) for the first month by my husband and his HUGE fingers.
“Afterwards, I have always used a shield, which some people still criticize me for using. It pisses me off to no end. When I was finally OK to work on latching, it took both myself and my husband (and a visit or two with a lactation consultant) to help her eat. Several times, I just laid there as my husband held her to me to eat. Breastfeeding truly has been a family affair.”
— CarrieAnn Pope
“I had no issues breastfeeding after a c-section at all. I had all three kids via c-section and breastfed all three. The hardest time breastfeeding any of my kids was when Olivia was in the hospital with pertussis, on life support.
“I was unable to breastfeed her due to her being on life support, so I had to pump every two hours day and night to ensure she got nothing but breastmilk. I was 17 years old myself — hardest time in my life, but she was worth it.”
“I had a great experience. As soon as we got into recovery, which was very soon after the c-section, they put him skin to skin and tried to get him to nurse. The nurses were worried because he wasn't latching, but the lactation consultant got him on just fine.
“It was tough to get up and down by myself, and then being hooked up to the IV after posed some challenges. I loved my nursing pillow and my pressure band for my c-section. My husband and the lactation consultant was a great support system, too!”
“I had an emergency c-section and didn't see my son until he was 3 days old due to complications for me and baby. While we were apart, I pumped, which was very difficult due to many complications.
“It wasn't until he was 2 weeks old that I could hold him and try breastfeeding. We had super, super support from the NICU staff. He only had formula once, and I just weaned at 26 months. I recommend the football hold and a thick boppy to lay across you while nursing so you don't irritate your incision.”
“Both of my children were born via c-section. I think nursing as soon as possible both times helped us be successful.
“While in the hospital, the football hold worked so well with my daughter, and once I was home with my son, I learned the clutch hold. Also, we did a lot of skin to skin while in the hospital to help my milk come in.”
“Brayden's birth, via c-section, was very traumatic. I didn't see my son until 2.5 to 3 hours after the birth, and I think that affected our breastfeeding relationship.
“Since I had to go to the recovery room for the hospital and not the recovery room in L&D, I was there forever before I could see Brayden. Once I had him in my arms, I believe the skin to skin helped us have the breastfeeding relationship.
“I had low supply and fought hard to increase it. We tried all the nursing positions, but laying down was the only one I could bear from the pain of the staples. I was able to breastfeed exclusively for six months, then I had to supplement with donor milk until he was 14 months.
“By the 14th month, I dried up. He continues to be on donor milk to this day; our goal is two years as recommended.”
Did you breastfeed after cesarean? If so, please share your story with us in the comments.