Having a Cesarean might affect your ability to nurse. Here are seven common questions about breastfeeding after a C-section, with answers that new moms need to know. 

By Jessica Hartshorn and Nicole Harris
Updated September 12, 2019
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Whether you deliver through planned or emergency Cesarean, many women wonder how the surgery affects their breastfeeding abilities. It’s true that C-sections may complicate some aspects of nursing—especially since the abdominal incision will likely be painful. However, with the proper support and techniques, you should be able to successfully breastfeed after a C-section. Here are seven common questions from new mothers, with answers to help make the process go smoothly. 

How soon can you breastfeed after a C-section?

You can breastfeed immediately after the C-section is done. In fact, “Some hospitals encourage skin-to-skin contact right after delivery of the baby, followed by breastfeeding once mom is stable in the recovery room,” says Mabel Wong, chief of the Ob-Gyn department at Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii. You'll probably need assistance from a nurse, doula, midwife, or your husband for that first latch-on; ask them to prop you up slightly and to help support the baby.

Keep in mind, though, that you can only breastfeed right away if you receive an epidural (regional anesthetic) for the operation, rather than a general anesthetic. Those who had general anesthetic will likely be too groggy to nurse immediately. Experts advise breastfeeding as soon as you feel up to it, and initiating skin-to-skin contact in the meantime. Your healthcare provider may have you pump, if she feels it’s been too long without breastfeeding. 

Will painkillers and antibiotics affect my breast milk?

You'll receive medicines via IVs and pills in the days after your C-section delivery. These are necessary to control post-operative pain, says Pamela Promecene, M.D., professor and obstetrician with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth/UT Physicians in Houston. Most of these medications won’t have any side effects for Baby; if anything, they’ll make him a little sleepy. 

Dr. Promecene adds that most facilities currently use a “multimodal approach” to control pain, which “greatly limits the use of systemic opioids while still providing a patient with good pain relief, making it safe to breastfeed.” Your provider will know which medicines to avoid if you’re planning on breastfeeding, and she’ll give you the proper advice.

Do C-sections alter your milk production?

Some women find that C-sections delay breast milk production, but rest assured that your milk will come in eventually. In the meantime, have lots of skin-to-skin contact with your newborn, and try nursing as frequently as possible.

What’s the best position for breastfeeding after a C-section?

The traditional cradle hold will likely be too tough on your postoperative tummy (try using a pillow if you’re determined to use this position). The football hold, in which the baby is tucked beside you, will probably be easier for now. You can also try breastfeeding while lying down. Ask a nurse, midwife, or lactation consultant to help you figure out the easiest breastfeeding position for you.

What are some tips for breastfeeding at home after a C-section?

It's always great to have someone assist with housework and baby care during those first weeks home, but if you've had a C-section, it may be very necessary. That’s because you’ll probably have trouble walking, lifting the baby, and caring for older children. Line up help from your spouse, your relatives, or friends to ensure you keep up with breastfeeding after a C-section. It's also vital to nurse every two to three hours to prevent engorgement. Hopefully, this bonding time with Baby will become a calming and relaxing part of your day.

Will breastfeeding after a C-section help me lose weight? 

Many moms wonder, does breastfeeding help you lose weight after a C-section? Breastfeeding actually burns about 300 to 500 calories per day, whether you deliver vaginally or with a C-section. This might help you shed the baby weight a bit sooner (you'll still need to eat about 2,000-2,500 calories per day to support nursing, though).

When will my period return when breastfeeding after a C-section?

Wondering about the return of menstruation after a C-section when breastfeeding? As it turns out, having a C-section doesn't impact when your period returns. Menstruation probably won't start flowing again until you stop breastfeeding your baby; if you don't nurse, expect it to return within six-eight weeks. 

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