The main fact that you had a c-section doesn’t necessarily mean that your milk will take longer to come in.
However, and I should say “unfortunately,” many of the circumstances surrounding a c-section delivery ARE related to the delayed milk onset.
Right after you deliver the baby -and the placenta- there’s a sudden drop of estrogen and progestin- (the main hormones that sustain the pregnancy), and oxytocin and prolactin rapidly rise to begin producing and release milk. Now, you won’t see that milk until the next 2 to 4 days. But, don’t worry, Nature is wise, and your body will release Colostrum to feed your baby until mature milk is ready to come in.
And, very important! That transformation of Colostrum needs a very important trigger, SUCTION! The later we put our baby on the breast, the longer will take our body to release mature milk.
Sometimes, C-sections occur in emergency situations, very traumatic births, or after a failure to thrive vaginal delivery. All these circumstances can leave the mother and the baby extremely exhausted and physically or emotionally traumatized, so the beginning of breastfeeding may be delayed.
Many hospitals don’t allow moms to be with their babies until several hours after a C-section, missing that precious first hour of alertness right after birth. By the time mom and baby are finally together, the baby might be too sleepy to latch, or mommy may be in pain after the sedation of anesthesia passes.
C-sections, like every surgery, require wound care and time to heal. Mothers often don’t get enough support to latch their babies in a comfortable position, or they might ignore the possibility of taking safe pain medications.
I could go on about many unfortunate circumstances that often prevent a smooth breastfeeding initiation for C-section moms. But, if you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, what can I do to prevent that from happening to me?
Here’re a few things to keep in mind:
If your c-section is planned, educate yourself about the hospital policies. Ask if you’re allowed to breastfeed in the recovery room, and if so, let your doctor and nurses know about your desires. Your partner can also remind them after the delivery.
Ask the lactation team or a trained nurse to help you latch on your baby for the first time and as many times you need it. Make sure you can find a comfortable position. Side-lying, clutch hold, football, and laying back are great positions to avoid putting pressure on the wound.
Don’t be afraid to take pain medications. Most of them won’t harm the baby, and you need to be in your best possible shape to take care of him/her.
Try to begin breastfeeding while you’re still under the effects of the epidural so that you won’t feel the wound yet.
If you had to go under general anesthesia, you might have to wait longer to breastfeed your baby. But you can ask in advance someone to help you pump or hand express to begin stimulating your breasts.
Keep your baby close to you, practicing Skin2Skin as much as possible, and pay attention to early hunger cues to offer the breast frequently.
Finally, take advantage of the hospital staff to help you breastfeed your baby. At home, plan to get extra help with house chores so that you can rest peacefully with your baby next to you.