Breastfeeding After a Cesarean Section

My doctor wants me to go into labor on my own, but then plans to do a cesarean. I am very committed to nursing my baby for at least the first year so I want to get the best start. I'm concerned that I may have problems nursing after surgery. Can you help?

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Kathy Kuhn

Kathy Kuhn is a registered nurse who has been working with breastfeeding families since 1981. She has been an International Board Certified... Read more

Certainly breastfeeding after a cesarean presents some challenges, but many mothers are able to breastfeed successfully after a cesarean birth. You are already doing the most important thing you can to reduce your risk of problems by searching for information and becoming informed about your options.

The most common complicating factor associated with cesarean birth is the delayed onset of breastfeeding. Usually, with epidural anesthesia, the mother can hold and breastfeed her baby sooner than general anesthesia (Lie & Juul 1988). Mothers delivering via cesarean section, can breastfeed for the same duration as mothers delivering by vaginal birth. It seems that once you overcome the initial period of recovery, your breastfeeding experience can be all that you would like it to be. Additionally, it is thought that a mother's commitment to breastfeeding has a very strong impact on her ability to breastfeed, despite the possible complicating factors of a cesarean birth (Janke 1988) .

Talk to your physician before the birth to discuss options for anesthesia and pain relief medications after the baby arrives. There are many medications that are considered compatible with breastfeeding and commonly used for breastfeeding mothers after cesarean births. Your doctors and nurses should be able to help you remain comfortable after the surgery.

Find out what kind of support your hospital offers to breastfeeding mothers. Ask if there is a board certified lactation consultant available to help you with breastfeeding in the hospital. You may want to contact her before the baby arrives, to learn if there are prenatal breastfeeding classes, or just to express your concerns and get to know her before your delivery.

References:
-- Breastfeeding duration following cesarean and vaginal births, Janke, JR, Journal of Nurse Midwifes 33: 159-64, 1988.
-- Effect of epidural vs. general anesthesia on breastfeeding, Lie, B. and Juul, J, Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 67: 207-209, 1988

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