April is Cesarean Awareness Month. Mothers who have a c-section often discover that a surgical birth also has an impact on breastfeeding. If the mother has her c-section prior to going into labour, or has had labour induced, she will not produce the same cascade of hormones that a natural labour start creates. These hormones influence not only the birth process but also set up the conditions to produce a good supply of breastmilk. Medications given during labour and delivery can influence the baby’s alertness in the early days and intravenous fluids have been shown to increase breast engorgement. Some studies have suggested that women who have c-sections have delayed lactation. It is unclear whether the delay is due to the physical stress of a surgical birth or due to the delay in first feedings and fewer early feedings.
The news isn’t all bad however. Other studies have shown evidence that mothers who have supportive people available, and are therefore able to feed their babies at the breast as soon as possible after the c-section, will see an increase in their milk supply sooner than mothers who have a delay in initiating breastfeeding. Mothers who are given assistance in finding comfortable positions for breastfeeding are more likely to persist through the physical challenges of breastfeeding in the early days after the c-section.
Laid back and reclining positions are generally more comfortable for mothers following a c-section. Protecting the surgical site with a pillow can also help as a kick in the incision can be extremely painful.
Mothers who have c-sections need more time to heal and recover their normal energy levels than mothers who have vaginal births. Breastfeeding is one thing that mum can do while sitting or lying down. Allow others to do as many of the other baby and household tasks as possible and concentrate your energies on healing and breastfeeding.
Contact a La Leche League Leader if you are anticipating having a c-section or if you have had one and are finding yourself struggling with getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
**Note: If you have a breastfeeding question, please click here.