A caesarean section is an operation to deliver your baby through a cut made in your abdomen (tummy) and womb. It's also known as a 'C-section'. There is no reason why breastfeeding can’t be successful for mums who have had a caesarean birth.
Skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after the birth will help.
If you had a spinal anaesthetic (epidural), use the time before it wears off fully to:
- find a breastfeeding position you like
- learn how to attach your baby comfortably to your breast
You and your baby may have to try a few ways to find a comfortable position after a caesarean birth.
Ask your midwife for help to position yourself and lift your baby out of their cot in the first day. In time, your birth partner can help you also.
Read about breastfeeding positions. The laid-back position, side-lying position or football hold are good ones 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 once they’re attached. This can help keep them from pulling off the breast once they relax during the feed.
- Put a pillow between your knees. 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 don't 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. Ask your midwife to help with getting your baby to feed if they are sleepy.
If your baby doesn’t attach well, you can express your first breast milk. This is called colostrum. 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. Don’t worry, your colostrum will meet all your baby’s needs until your milk comes in.
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 medications 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 medication taken in by your baby is tiny and almost undetectable.
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.
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 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.