How a cesarean birth might affect your breastfeeding.

Jessica Hartshorn
October 03, 2005

Does having a c-section affect your ability to nurse? It might. Here are five things you should know about breastfeeding after a cesarean.

1. You can breastfeed right after birth. It's possible to breastfeed right away if you receive an epidural (regional anesthetic) for the operation, rather than a general anesthetic, and fortunately most hospitals today use epidurals. You'll need assistance, however, 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.

2. Painkillers and antibiotics may have an effect on your milk. You'll receive medicines via IVs and pills in the days after your delivery, and typically they're fine for nursing mothers and their babies. At most, they'll make your baby a bit sleepy. The benefit of the painkillers is that they'll help you relax enough to breastfeed and stimulate milk production.

3. You might have to try certain holds while you heal. The traditional cradle hold will likely be too tough on your tummy. The football hold, where baby is tucked beside you, will be easier for now, or you can try breastfeeding while lying down. Ask a nurse, midwife, or lactation consultant to help you figure out the easiest breastfeeding position for you.

4. Get extra help at home. 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 -- you may have trouble walking, lifting the baby, and caring for older children. Line up help from your spouse (who may be able to take extra time off), your relatives, or friends. Or you can hire a postpartum doula or baby nurse -- the hospital, your doctor or midwife, or your baby's pediatrician may have recommendations.

5. Keep feeding! While having a cesarean can leave you exhausted, it's still vital to nurse every two to three hours to prevent engorgement. Hopefully, it will be a calming and relaxing part of your day.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; La Leche League

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby


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