BREASTFEEDING POST C SECTION DELIVERY
Breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and baby and is also known to be important to health outcomes for mother and baby too.
Once upon a time having a caesarean, whether planned or emergency, often hindered a mother’s choice as to whether to breastfeed or not, but with advancements in surgery techniques, pain relief, recovery times and more information and help available on breastfeeding, this should be a thing of the past.
A caesarean delivery is carried out while the mother is under anaesthetic, more often than not this will be in the form of an epidural where the mother is awake while the procedure is performed.
A horizontal incision is made just above the bikini line and then followed by an incision in the uterus through which the baby and the placenta are delivered. At least one third of all births in Australia are by caesarean with an increasing number of these being for non-medical reasons. Caesareans have become a modern day option for a woman’s right to choose how she gives birth.
Whilst the caesarean procedure itself is pain free, the recovery process can be difficult. Like all surgeries, the first 2-3 days will require strong pain relief, followed by milder pain relief and plenty of rest for the following weeks. Pain relief medication does pass to your baby in small doses which doesn’t usually pose a problem, but it is recommended to take the smallest amount required in order to stay as comfortable as possible. The use of abdominal binders can aid in a mother’s recovery time as well as providing additional support for nursing.
Like natural births, skin to skin contact for a mother and baby should occur as soon as possible after the birth. For mothers having a caesarean, this is able to happen whilst still in the operating theatre as soon as the Paediatrician has checked the baby and is happy with their condition. The switch on of lactation occurs from a change in balance of hormones in the blood when the placenta is removed, this does not change whether the delivery is by caesarean or natural means, so does not impede on a mother’s ability to breastfeed. Early breastfeeding is helpful to a mother to stop engorgement of the breasts and the initial breast milk called colostrum is all important to a baby. Colostrum contains antibodies and immunoglobulins to help protect newborns against detrimental bacteria and viruses, as well as having a laxative effect to help them expel the meconium. If you are unable to directly give this to your baby through initial breastfeeding, it is advised to express this for the medical staff to administer to your baby. You can keep expressing until your baby is able to breastfeed.
Due to the nature of a caesarean, it is important for a breastfeeding mother to find a position which is comfortable for her. Some examples include; sitting with a pillow on your lap to support baby and protect the surgery wound from kicking feet, lying down on your side, or the ‘twin’ position where baby is tucked under your arm with their feet towards your back. No matter which one you choose, ensure your baby’s body is close to yours with chin to breast and nose away from breast. The best advice is to try different positions and find what works for you and your baby.
Caesareans are a major abdominal surgery and to aid the recovery process it is important to rest and not lift anything heavier than your baby for the first six weeks. Everyone is different so it is important to listen to your body and don’t push the boundaries of what you can do at this time. If help is offered for other household chores, take it and if it isn’t offered, don’t be afraid to ask for it. This is a perfect time to rest and bond with your new baby.