It is what most mom’s dream of when they are pregnant; breastfeeding. Note that I did say most, as I know that there are mom’s out there who just do not wish to breastfeed, and that is totally OK! We picture our little baby, eating the natural milk our bodies made all while enjoying some special bonding time together.
While a lot of us may imagine the joys that are breastfeeding, a lot of us are completely un-prepared for how incredibly hard it can be. It can be hard physically and emotionally, it takes a toll on an already tired mother (can anyone say cluster feeding!). We are told that when the baby is born, they will be immediately placed on our chest for skin-to-skin time. There are many benefits of skin-to-skin, and one of them is it is supposed to encourage breastfeeding.
However, they still fail to tell us how challenging it can be, even with all the skin-to-skin in the world, it can be hard to get the baby to latch, and even harder still for your body to keep up with the demand. While, this vision may be nice, this sometimes only applies to a vaginal birth, but what about C-sections?
It may be pretty safe to say that not a lot of women plan on having a C-section. It is the form of childbirth that is usually reserved for emergency purposes, and we are glad for it. It means that a lot of mom’s and babies are surviving childbirth. Does this pose a problem for breastfeeding? While it doesn’t always, it can certainly cause some issues for a mom who wants to breastfeed. Here are 15 of the most common problems you may encounter when trying to breastfeed after having a C-section.
15 Limited Skin-To-Skin
Skin-to-skin is a wonderful thing, and women who have a vaginal birth are usually not limited to this experience, and can spend all the time they way cuddling with their baby right on their chest after birth. This is not always the case with a C-section. We must remember that a C-section is considered a major surgery, and there will always be certain restrictions that can cause a delay in this special time.
If the C-section does not go as smoothly as planned, or the baby and mom need some extra care, it can delay that initial bonding time. The mom may also be experiencing the “epidural shakes” which could make it unsafe for a mom to hold her baby until she has had a bit more time to recover. They have come a long way in increasing the time that a mother have to wait to hold her baby, and the length of time she can have that skin-to-skin, but there is always a chance this can hinder the start of breastfeeding.
14 Lack Of Knowledge
One of the biggest problems with nursing after a C-section is actually caused before the baby even comes. That is the lack of knowledge around nursing after a C-section. The reason women are unprepared is because they are not planning on having a C-section. They go through their pregnancy getting prepared for a vaginal birth, and learn about how to nurse a baby who was born this way. C-sections are often emergency, with no warning, because something is not going right and mom and/or baby are in distress.
Women have not gotten the information they need about nursing after a C-section. There are many things to consider, a lot of which will be covered in this article. The best thing a pregnant woman can do, is plan for both a vaginal and a C-section. It can be overwhelming and even a little frightening, but it will always be better to be prepared for both, just in case. The support is out there, you just have to find it.
13 If Something Goes Wrong
As I said before, a C-section is considered a medical major surgery, and as with any major operation there come risks. There are risks to the mom and to the baby, and they will most likely be told to you before the operation happens. If we look at worst case scenarios, we can see one of the biggest problems that could prevent you from nursing your little one. What if something happens to mom during the operation?
What I mean, is what if she loses to much blood and goes unconscious and must be worked on some more? If too much time goes by when mom is not available, the hospital staff will have to feed your baby something, they won’t have a choice. This will normally be some form of formula. Nurses and doctors like you to first attempt at nursing very quickly following birth, if the delay is too long it could hinder a mom's ability to nurse long term.
I don’t know how many times someone has to say that a C-section is a major surgery before people will stop seeing it as the easy way out. It involves a massive and hard recovery road of healing, this in itself can make it very hard to breastfeed. Not impossible, but difficult. A woman is very sore during recovery, and often can not even find the strength to get out of bed, much less constantly be feeding their baby.
Breastfeeding is also not easy, it can be a difficult and draining task, so when you are already supposed to be resting, it can be a hard task to take on. It is important to have a great support system, a partner who doesn’t mind bringing the baby to you so that you do not have to keep getting up. The toll of recovery can lead to our next problem you may encounter with breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding can be frustrating for any mom on a good day. We try and stick to it because we know it is what is best for our baby, but it can be hard and make us want to throw in the towel. This is how a lot of woman with vaginal births feel, so you can imagine how a C-section mama feels. The frustration can be even greater. A woman wants to bounce back after birth, it can be hard to sit back and do nothing. When you are dealing with this, as well as the struggle to breastfeed, it can be frustrating for anyone.
Frustration can get the better of any mom, and if you have already had a bad start due to your C-section, it can be even more frustrating to continue. It is best that you understand that it is OK to be frustrated. It is OK to be upset, but at the end of the day you need to feed your baby!
It is only normal that a woman would receive medication after childbirth. All I was on after a vaginal birth was a stool softener, and some over the counter pain relief. If you have had a C-section, it is quite understandable that you may be on a few more medications that that. Now only for pain relief, but also to prevent an infection, or treat one if you already have one.
Now, most of the time, doctors will prescribe medication that is safe to take while breastfeeding, and that shouldn’t interfere with your milk supply. However, it is not an exact science and some medications may react differently to you, making it difficult for your body to produce milk. Also, if there are any serious complications, you may have no choice but to go on stronger medication that will prevent you from nursing.
9 Less Connection To Baby
While, this is not always a rule, there was a study don’t that found that mother’s who had their baby had a harder time connecting to their baby, and responding to their cries. This, of course, is not the case for any mother who has to have a C-section. These mother’s still love their babies no less than any other mom, but they just have a hard time creating that bond. This is partially to be blamed on the shame that some woman feel when they are unable to deliver vaginally.
Unfortunately, until the stigma around C-sections disappear, this may never change. This disconnect with the baby may hinder the start of breastfeeding. When you are not as responsive to your baby’s cries, it can cause a biological reaction. When we hear our infant cry, our body will naturally create milk to nourish the baby. When our body does not react, it may not produce milk.
8 Medication Part Two
Staying on the theme of feeling like a failure, brings us to another entry on medication problems. Post-partum depression does not judge anyone based on how they gave birth. It can rear its ugly head no matter how you delivered your baby. C-section mother’s are not exempt, and may even be at a higher risk of PPD. This goes back to their feelings of shame and disappointment of not being able to deliver naturally.
To combat some anxiety and/or depression that may come with having a C-section, the doctor may prescribe some mood-altering medications. While they may try their best to find a compatible drug that works for mom and does not interfere with nursing, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes they have to prescribe a medication that may make it hard (or impossible) to nurse.
7 Not Advocating For Rights
One of the biggest problems that arise when nursing after a C-section, happens before the baby is born, and this could be the one entry to prepare yourself. Know your rights and wishes, and make them known. When you are expecting, and even if you are not planning on a C-section, make your wishes known to your health care team about how important breastfeeding is to you. They can help set up a plan that will work for you to provide the best nursing environment.
This is a problem, because when you do not advocate for your rights and wishes, the medical team does not know, so they do what they have been doing for years. If they know your wishes, they can prepare for a gentle C-section, meaning immediate and more skin-to-skin, and a quicker opportunity for the nursing to start.
6 Comfortable Grip
We have talked about comfort and how hard it can be or a recovering mom to nurse her baby, but let’s talk about the specifics. After a C-section, you probably will not want anything (or anyone) touching your incision, or even coming close. This can make getting the baby into a comfortable nursing position very difficult, adding to even more frustration.
If you can not find a comfortable position to nurse your baby in, it can be enough for any mom to throw the towel in. There are ways around this, and it all comes down to knowledge. Learn and practice the different techniques when it comes to nursing. There is the football hold, where you hold your little one more to the side. You can even nurse laying down on your side. Get your partner to help put the baby into position for you.
5 Birth Weight Loss
When a baby is born, they can lose up to 10% of their body weight immediately following. Any more than that will have any doctor concerned. When you have a C-section, you will have a lot of fluids pumped into you, which will go to the baby. This can lead to an “inflated” baby at birth, which is not at all dangerous. What this does mean is that the baby may lose a lot of weight following birth, mostly water weight. Doctors and nurses do know this, but it can make them concerned that they are not getting enough breastmilk, and may encourage you to supplement.
While formula is totally fine, when you start supplementing, this can lead to nipple confusion. It can make the baby have a harder time latching on to you, and set you up for a road of nursing struggles. If this happens to you, and you are concerned, bring it up to your doctor.
4 Delay In Milk
The milk that your body produces immediately following birth is not really milk at all, it is colostrum. It is full of antibiotics and all the good stuff your baby needs. It takes a couple of days for your mature milk to come in, that is if you had a vaginal birth. A C-section may cause a delay in this mature milk coming in. Now, this is not caused by a C-section, but by a traumatic birth. A lot of C-sections can end up being a traumatic birth, and can impact your body’s production of mature milk.
With all the concern of your baby getting enough to eat, as well as the right stuff, this can lead to the introduction of formula. Mom (and doctor) may make the quick assumption that her body is just not going to make any milk, and will encourage supplementing or going right to formula feeding. If this needs to happen, that’s fine, but be patient, your milk should come in.
3 Drowsy Baby
All forms of medication a mother takes when pregnant and during childbirth can have an effect on the baby. Not harmful or dangerous effects, but effects none the less. Epidurals can sometimes make the baby feel very lethargic and sleepy, so you can imagine the effects all the drugs during a C-section can make a baby even more so. Again, these are not conditions that are going to cause long term effects to your little one, but they can certainly hinder the breastfeeding journey.
A drowsy and lethargic baby is very hard to eat. Think about it, if you were exhausted and all you wanted to do was sleep, would you feel like waking up to eat a steak dinner? Probably not, and the same goes with your baby. There are certain things you can try to stimulate your baby to eat, but sometimes there is no waking that baby to latch.
Thrush is a condition that a lot of mom’s and babies come down with, it is common. It may be even more common with a mother who has to have a C-section. This is because the boost in antibiotics given during a C-section can cause a build up of yeast in the mother’s breast milk. The yeast can be in the vaginal cavity, as well as in your baby’s diaper area and mouth. They can then transfer it to your nipple. Make sure that you know what some of the signs and symptoms are, so you know what to look out for.
Your best defence weapon against thrush is to know the signs and symptoms, so that you can treat it as soon as possible. The quicker you notice what is going on, the quicker it can be treated and breastfeeding can go on like normal. It can cause a bump in the already pretty bumpy ride.
1 Set Themselves Up For Failure
I can not state enough how wrong of an assumption it is that a C-section is the easy way out. It is most definitely not, and we need to start supporting our fellow mama’s who have had to have one. Most of all we need to help them see that they are not a failure, and that there is nothing to feel shameful for. This feeling of inadequacy can cause some severe problems with breastfeeding, and the reason why is that a woman may have lost all her confidence.
We spend so much time knowing that a woman’s body is made to deliver a baby, and when it doesn’t happen “naturally’ it can make women feel like a failure. A lot of times, women feel that if they could not deliver naturally, than they won’t be able to breastfeed other. They make a dangerous assumption, when all they need is a little bit of help and support and they can do it!
Sources; parents.com, breastfeedingbasics.com, mom365.com, webmd.com, theleakyboob.com