Start breastfeeding as soon as possible after the birth. Suturing, anesthesia, and other logistics may delay putting baby to breast, but it’s never too late! Even if your milk isn’t in, starting the process will help signal to your body that it’s time to make milk. If for some reason it will be several hours before you can nurse, ask for a pump so you can start creating the demand.
Stay on top of your medication. Yes, a small amount will pass through your milk to the baby, but it is better for both of you if you are well-rested and comfortable. Breastfeeding can be frustrating, especially at first, and the more comfortable and relaxed you are, the better it will be. And, as you start to get the hang of nursing, it’s likely you’ll need less and less medication due to the release of oxytocin (feel good hormone!) from breastfeeding.
Watch for signs of thrush. Often, preventative antibiotics are given to moms after surgery. This can lead to an overgrowth of yeast that can cause a yeast infection for you, and what is called thrush in the baby. The most common sign in babies are white patches in the mouth. Thrush can be uncomfortable for you and your baby, and can lead to difficulties nursing. Talk to your doctor about other signs and symptoms and when to seek treatment.
Try different positions for breastfeeding. Side-lying is usually preferable in the first couple days following delivery, with the clutch hold coming after. For the first few hours, you may feel weak due to the anesthesia, and you may need an extra pair of hands to hold the baby. Use lots of pillows, blankets, and other props for support and to cover your tender incision. This will take practice, too, so be kind to yourself!
Surround yourself with supportive people. If you have the option, choose to have your baby in a hospital that supports breastfeeding and offers lactation consultants. Discuss your choice to breastfeed with your partner and family. Let them know that if they can’t be supportive, or will undermine your decision, they won’t be welcome at the hospital or after the birth until breastfeeding has been well established. If you are having trouble, ask for help right away! Many of the nurses in the maternity unit will have experience helping, and most hospitals have lactation consultants available. Getting help from a professional early will go a long way in having success.
Get lots of help at home. Breastfeeding and recovering from a C-section will take a lot of your time and energy—and that’s okay! Hiring a postpartum doula, getting a maid service, freezing meals ahead of time and accepting help from friends and family will help you get the rest and time you need. A lot of us have a hard time saying yes when people offer help. Put your ego aside and say yes, reach out to friends and family to ask, and just say thank you when they come through. It will be worth it! The more rest you get, the faster you will recover, and the sooner you can be back on your feet and into your normal routine.