Breastfeeding and C-Section: What You Have to Know

There are two basic birth methods: vaginal delivery and cesarean section. When it comes to cesarean section, there is a surgical procedure where the mother is anesthetized and an incision is made through the abdomen and uterus for the baby to come out. Why are cesarean deliveries important what how will it affect breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding and C-Section: What You Have to Know

Reasons for a Cesarean Delivery There are various reasons why a cesarean delivery is usually performed. Sometimes, this is planned earlier but mostly performed and decided during labor.

Baby's head is too large This is typically called Cephalopelvic Disproportion (CPD). This is when the baby’s head is too large and the mom’s pelvis is too small to deliver the baby.

Stalled labour
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of cesareans happen when the mom is in labor for more than 20 hours and 14 hours for new moms.

Mother's health condition
Mothers who have chronic health conditions like health disease, high blood pressure, or gestational diabetes may need to deliver via cesarean. If you have infections like HIV or genital herpes, you may pass this to your baby during vaginal birth thus making c-section safer.

Baby is coming out feet first
To ensure a successful procedure, babies are to be positioned headfirst near the birth canal. Sometimes, babies position their feet, shoulder, or side first.

Multiple babies
There are different risks when you are producing more than one baby during pregnancy. This can put mothers installed labor. There is a possibility of one of the babies in an abnormal position.

Placenta Previa
This can be a cause of dangerous bleeding during vaginal birth. The purpose of the placenta is to supply your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.  Women with placenta previa require a c-section to avoid the risk of severe bleeding.

Abnormal baby heart beat The normal heart rate during labor is 120 to 160 beats per minute. If otherwise, this will be a problem. The mother will be given more fluids, oxygen, or position. Additionally, cesarean delivery may be necessary.

Before Procedure

You will have to fast
To prepare for your major surgery, you will need to fast. You will fast six hours before with no food or drink, including water. You also won’t be allowed to smoke or have any candy or gum.

You will have blood tests
This is to ensure your health and in case need of blood transfusion during the surgery. Blood transfusions are rarely needed during a cesarean delivery but this is to prepare for any kind of emergency.

In the Hospital Procedure

Due to anesthesia, your baby may feel sleepy
After the procedure, depending on the type of anesthesia, you and your baby may feel sleepy. Most medications affect your breast milk at low levels and expose no risk to most infants. If you’ve received general anesthesia, you will have to wait for it to wear off before you breastfeed. With epidural or spinal anesthesia, you may be able to breastfeed in the operating room or after the recovery room. Further pain medication may make you and or your baby sleepy

You are asked to take pain medication after a cesarean section. If you are still in pain, it will take some time for your body to heal thus making your breastfeeding more uncomfortable. Some of the pain medication may also be passed on to your breast milk, making your baby sleepy. However, medications used in two days after childbirth have very little transfer to your breast milk due to the limited volume of breast milk you produce.

After C-Section

Pump and dump breast milk
Compared to vaginal delivery, it may take longer for your milk to come in. If you will be separated from your baby for more than 12 hours, you may ask to use a breast pump to stimulate your breasts. Make sure to pump every two to three hours till you see your baby again. You may use “pump and dump” for at least four hours. This is when you pump out milk for four hours and throw them out. This way, you can be extra safe in any case that the medicine gets into the milk.

You may not feel like breastfeeding after a C-Section
You may not be up to breastfeeding after a difficult surgery. Unexpected C-section may cause sadness and feeling a sense of loss and failure from not being able to have a vaginal delivery. This is normal and you are not alone.

Start breastfeeding as soon as you can and want to
When breastfeeding, keep in mind that you might be having a hard time moving because of your surgery. Don’t be shy to ask for help from your partner, nurse, or guardian. Since you are still under the effect of spinal/epidural, you are most likely to be groggy. The side-lying position is the most comfortable position in the first couple of days of surgery. Of course, some positions will be more preferred than others by different moms. With whichever position you choose, make sure that the baby’s tummy is towards you. Find which position works best for you!

Skin-to-skin helps with milk supply
If you cannot breastfeed your baby, hold your baby skin-to-skin. Preferably, you do this as soon as you can. For moms who have given birth, this helps with milk supply and decreases bleeding all the while providing the oxytocin hormone. Skin-to-skin care stabilizes weights in infants with low birth weights, low rates of infection, lower death rates, and decreased stress in the baby. The good bacteria protects babies from diseases and helps build their immune systems.

Use pain medications if you need to
Don’t be afraid of using them! With pain medications, you are more comfortable and able to relax your body to concentrate on making breast milk for your baby. To some extent, any drug that’s present in your blood may transfer to your breast milk. Don’t worry, most medications do so at low levels but with no real risk to most infants.

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