There is no reason why breastfeeding cannot be successful if you have had a caesarean birth.
You will usually feel OK enough to be able to feed your baby straight away.
Have skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after the caesarean birth.
This will help you:
- find a breastfeeding position you like
- attach your baby comfortably to your breast
- bond with your baby
You and your baby may have to try a few ways to find a comfortable position after a caesarean birth.
Ask your midwife to help you position yourself and lift your baby out of their cot on the first day. In time, your birth partner can help you also.
Many maternity units have baby cots that attach to your bed safely. This makes it easy for you to move your baby without needing to ask for help.
The laid-back position, side-lying position or football hold are good breastfeeding positions to try.
Tips for finding a comfortable breastfeeding position
- 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 to protect it in case your baby kicks.
- Place a rolled-up towel behind your baby when they’re attached. This can help keep them from pulling away from the breast when they relax during the feed.
- Put a pillow between your knees and another behind your back. This can help reduce the strain on your back and tummy muscles.
- You can also try using the side-rail on the bed when rolling over to feed from the other side.
- In the laid back position, you can easily position your baby so that their feet do not touch your wound.
- By laying their tummy on your body, your baby is well-supported and can latch more deeply.
- Put your feet up on a low, toddler-type stool. This will bring your knees up and improve comfort.
- Use pillows under your knees, arms and behind your lower back for further support as needed.
Babies born by caesarean section may be a little sleepy. They may need some extra encouragement to stay alert during the first few feeds.
Skin-to-skin contact will encourage them to latch and feed more often. You can keep your baby stimulated during a feed by compressing your breasts. Ask your midwife to help with getting your baby to feed if they are sleepy.
If your baby does not attach well, you can express your first breast milk. This is called colostrum. You can feed this to your baby using a syringe (dropper). You need to express every 2 hours until your baby is latching on and feeding well.
Your milk coming in may be delayed by a day or so because of the caesarean birth. Do not worry, your colostrum will meet all your baby’s needs until your milk comes in. Lots of skin-to-skin contact and frequent hand expressing will help to bring in milk sooner.
A caesarean section is a major surgery, so be sure to take the right amount of pain relief. You will be more comfortable breastfeeding if your pain is managed.
The medicines you take do pass into your milk in very small amounts. The amount of colostrum produced in the first few days is very small. So the amount of medicine taken in by your baby is tiny. All the medicines you are given in the hospital are checked to be compatible with breastfeeding.
By the time your milk comes in you may find that you can manage with lighter pain relief. For example, paracetamol or ibuprofen. If you have any concerns, talk to your midwife or obstetrician.
Antibiotics and thrush
Antibiotics are usually prescribed after a caesarean birth to help prevent infection. A side-effect of this can be that you or your baby develop thrush.
There is no need to stop breastfeeding if you or baby gets thrush. But do talk to your midwife, lactation specialist or GP about treatment.
After a caesarean birth, your hospital stay will be longer than for other births. Use this extra time to rest as much as possible and get help with breastfeeding positions.
Join your local breastfeeding group for more help and support.