I knew from the beginning that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. That was my most important wish. All I wanted was to be able to breastfeed at least 6 months. I knew that breastfeeding especially in those first few months is extremely beneficial for my baby’s health.
And now, here I am a bit over a year still breastfeeding my little one. Although I’ve already started weaning him. I plan a very gentle approach.
Back to the beginning.
Delivery via a C-section wasn’t on my birthing plan. Not that I had one of those. It didn’t even cross my mind. But for one reason or another, I’ve delivered my baby via an emergency C section.
When I heard that I wouldn’t be able to deliver naturally, I was devastated. At least that was my first reaction. Soon after that, I understood that I had no other choice.
I’ve already started pushing when they’ve told me that’s too late and we couldn’t wait any longer. I know it sounds a little scary. And now that I look back I am so thankful that everything was good in the end. More about this in a future post.
Today I’d like to share my top tips on breastfeeding after a C-section and what I’ve learned as a new mommy. These are perfect for all the women who have had their baby delivered via a C-section.
I was unprepared and lost, didn’t know anything about C-sections and breastfeeding after surgery. So, I’d like YOU to be ready and learn from my experiences. You have to know what to do when some of these things happen to you.
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Be aware! This is a MASSIVE blog post, so feel free to use the below summary for easy reading.
1. Be confident
Even though you don’t know what you are doing, you SHOULD be confident! Your baby can sense that.
I learned this the hard way! I was super emotional, agitated and way too sensitive after my baby’s birth. So, all my feelings and emotions were transferred onto him. I didn’t know why I had a very agitated baby in my arms. Later I learned that I have to control my emotions and be confident.
2. Trust your mama instinct!
3. Be patient
You must be patient with your newborn baby! Even if you’re not the most patient person in the world (like myself here).
Remember that he’s new to this world. His new role is learning and exploring. Don’t be upset if you don’t get a good latch right away or if he doesn’t know how to nurse.
Babies are survivors and they are born fighters, all you need to do is have a little patience and offer him a chance.
4. Breast milk can be delayed
There is going to be a delay in the production of breast milk.
This can be anywhere between 2-6 days. Until the real milk comes in, your baby is going to feed on colostrum – which is some sort of milk that’s thick with a yellowish colour (mine was more of a brownish colour – I guess it varies).
How to speed up the milk production?
There are some things you could do to speed up the process of milk production:
- Skin-to-skin. Ask your nurse to put your baby onto your chest until the doctors are finishing up your stitches. In my case, I only had him for a few moments as he had to stay under the lamp, but as soon as I was out of the surgery room, he was always with me. Do as much skin-to-skin as possible and when you can!
- Nurse ASAP. It’s extremely important to put your baby onto your boob as soon as you can or maybe you could wait until you’re out of the surgery room.
- Massage your breasts. This not only will stimulate your milk production but it will also prevent your milk ducts to be clogged. My milk ducts seemed to be clogged and I had really painful and engorged breasts. My little boy wasn’t even getting enough colostrum and the real milk came in around 3 days after the surgery. So, I had to massage them to get things going. By the time I figured it out, the baby has lost more weight than he was allowed to.
- Use a breast pump. This will definitely be of help if you have one on hand. If you don’t, just ask your nurse of a midwife. Most certainly they have one on hand. In my case, the hospital provided a pump for me. But after a day or so I purchased my own so I could pump on demand. I was “working” really hard to get that milk in so I can feed my baby. I needed him to put his weight back. I remember that I used to nurse him and then pump when he slept.
- Drink plenty of liquids. Somehow there is a connection between drinking water and breast milk production. Duh! Breast milk is mostly water. Not sure what’s the science behind it, but I remember I used to drink lots of it. I even drank a special tea designed to boost your breast milk supply.
- Eat well and nutritious foods. This is key if you want your body to be able to (more) produce milk. I noticed a huge difference between those days when I didn’t eat well and the days when I was focusing more on my meals. So definitely keep this one in mind.
- Nursing on demand. Another “must-do” if you are planning to both keep and increase your milk supply. I read that your baby and your body are “communicating” via his saliva. That’s how your body knows how much milk to produce. Also, another cool thing I read: milk is different at every feed. It’s constantly adjusting to your baby’s needs that will be again, transferred via his saliva.
Bonus: Not exactly sure what to eat to boost your milk supply? Luckily I got you covered! I’ve created a full 7-day meal plan (21 meal ideas + links to the recipes) that can make your life easier. You’ll also get a list of all the foods you can eat to boost your milk supply together with a snack list.
5. Pain-free breastfeeding
Here I am referring to two different things.
The first type of pain – physical
You’re going to experience several pains, especially after you’ve had a C-section. In the beginning, you won’t be able to move, walk, laugh, turn around in the bed, get out of bed, etc. Everything will be extremely painful! And everybody experiences and handles pain differently.
I don’t mean to frighten you.
Some things might be different for you. I was told by my midwife that my pain threshold is quite high, so I don’t really know what you are going to feel.
You’ll experience pain even when you’re trying to hold your baby into your arms (you’re using your abdominal muscles for a lot of things, that’s why everything you want to do is painful), when you’re trying to feed him, etc.
In fact, you’ll not even be allowed to lift up your baby in the first few weeks. Not even to hold him for a long time. Somebody has to bring him to you.
For me, this was so painful!!
I did the mistake to nurse him while holding him in my arms. Nobody told me that I’m not supposed to hold him like that. I was in a LOT of pain, but I didn’t care! I was happy to hold and feed my baby. Nothing else mattered.
But, don’t do this mistake!
You can still enjoy and nurse your newborn even if he’s not into your arms.
So how to do it without any pain?
Lie down, put some pillows next to you and put your baby on top of the pillows. This will help him be on the same level as your boob so he’ll be able to nurse without any issues.
his tip is essential especially for night-time when your baby will wake up every 5 minutes.
I used to hold him in my arms and onto my tummy to nurse him. I barely got any sleep. Until one night when one of the midwives saw that I couldn’t sleep because he wouldn’t sleep either. So she showed me this method. That’s how I actually nursed him for a very long time.
The second type of pain – at your breasts
I am going to say that breastfeeding is pain-free! Therefore, if you’re experiencing ANY type of pain while breastfeeding something is not right! An exception, of course, is in those first few weeks (depending on how your body adjusts) when breastfeeding can be quite painful.
That’s because you are both learning. Your baby learns how to suck and feed while you learn how to breastfeed.
People say that breastfeeding is a very natural thing and whatever is natural it shouldn’t be hard.
Well, let me disagree with that!
Breastfeeding can be hard especially in the beginning until you get the hang of things.
Note, while breastfeeding you shouldn’t feel any pain whatsoever. So, if you do feel pain, something is not right.
Detach baby from your breast and start over. Maybe he hasn’t latched on properly or maybe he has a tongue tie.
It’s better to rule out any medical issues first and then you’ll be told what to do next.
Also, please keep in mind that a deep latch is ideal to avoid a sore nipple. Meaning that your baby has to have both your areola and nipple into his mouth. In fact, if you see any of the areolae (unless you have a really big areola, this is not valid) when your baby’s feeding it means that he’s not latched on properly.
Another sign of a good latch is if you see that baby has his mouth wide open.
My midwives used to come at almost every feed so that I learn the correct procedure. They even say that until you don’t know how to do it, you won’t be able to go home.
Not entirely true though, I’ve seen many mommies who in a couple of hours were discharged (who didn’t necessarily “learned” how to breastfeed).
I was stuck in the hospital for an entire week! 🙁
Don’t be alarmed, it was because of my C section recovery, not because of my breastfeeding.
For more info, feel free to check out the below video resources I found online about latching and how to properly attach your baby’s mouth onto your breast:
- Correct latching techniques for breastfeeding | How to avoid pain & sore nipples
- Breastfeeding: Getting a Good Latch Every Time – not the best quality but amazing explanations
- Breastfeeding Position and Latch
Remember, if the pain or discomfort persists you should speak to a specialist. There is no shame in getting help! Sometimes it’s much better to get help, so go ahead and ask for it if you feel that you need it.
I remember that I couldn’t make it work at the beginning, but with a bit of perseverance I succeeded and now I get the chance to write about my top tips about breastfeeding.
And most of all, remember that you’re not alone! There are plenty of breastfeeding support groups on Facebook. So definitely check those out.
I was lucky enough to don’t get nipple cracks and other issues; I guess my baby was gentle with me.
But if you do experience these, I recommend using any cream that has Lanolin in it. Be VERY careful while using any nipple creams, they stain your clothes really bad!
For those women who don’t have a big nipple or have really bad pain, I recommend using some nipple shields.
6. Growth spurts
I know from experience that these can get very difficult, especially in those early weeks when you have a newborn. You’re still adjusting to one another and you don’t really know what’s happening with your baby.
During a growth spurt, you may notice that he would want to constantly nurse. It’s very tiring, but there’s nothing that you could do about it.
My baby wanted to constantly be on my boob. There were nights when he used to wake up every 5 minutes.
You’ll also notice an increase in your milk supply during this time, but it will gradually go back to normal.
Here are some common growth spurts:
- First few days
- 7-10 days
- 2-3 weeks
- 4-6 weeks
- 3 & 4 months
- 6 & 9 months
These are only about measures, mainly because every baby is different and they develop extremely differently.
A growth spurt usually lasts anywhere between 2 to 7 or more days. So be patient, it’ll go away.
I know that it feels that it’ll never go away, but it will trust me!
I remember my baby’s second growth spurt (at around 7-12 days of life), I thought that I didn’t have enough milk for him and that he was hungry. I kept putting him on the breast but he didn’t seem to get anything.
So, I decided to supplement with some baby formula. I found out later via a mommy group on Facebook what it was and that offering formula was a huge mistake.
By doing that it interferes with the natural supply and demand of milk production (click here to find more about how breast milk works) and will prevent your body from getting the message to make more milk during the growth spurt.
They’ve told me to put the baby on the breast and he’ll be just fine!
Actually, that’s what I did and it helped. Everything was ok in the end.
That’s when I first heard about a growth spurt. Until then I never knew that these exist.
There’s some more proof that those baby & mommy groups can be very helpful, especially when you’re a new mom and you want answers ASAP.
7.Pump, pump, and pump
There are some doctors that recommend not starting to pump right away. Mainly to don’t overproduce breast milk.
In those first 3 months, your body and baby are working on the milk production. Your body will learn how to adjust to your baby’s needs, when and how much milk to produce. After this 3 months mark, your breast milk will become “regular” and that’s when, according to some doctors, you could start pumping.
That wasn’t the case for me. My midwife didn’t mention anything about not pumping or that it could affect my milk production in any way. I was nursing on demand so I didn’t notice an overproduction of my breast milk.
I didn’t exaggerate though with the pumping. It was used just when needed.
But like I always say, do your own research and then decide what’s best for you.
If you are not sure what breast pump to go for, I loved the Medela Swing Breast Pump.
I never had an issue with it. It’s portable & the batteries last a really long time. Just love it! I highly recommend it.
Why use a pump?
I highly recommend using a breast pump. This not only will “save” you, but it will also help you with many things such as:
- Keeping or increasing your milk supply
- Engorged breasts
- Prevent Mastitis
- Nursing strikes
I used my pump a LOT! Maybe that’s the reason why I never got mastitis. I used it as soon as I felt any type of pain in my breasts. It even helped me when my little one had a nursing strike (when your baby refuses to nurse). I remember that I had massive and engorged boobs during that period. It was a really stressful time for both baby and me.
What if the baby rejects a bottle?
You should know that if you decide to pump you have to offer that pumped milk to your baby with a bottle.
Therefore, another thing you should consider is that your baby might reject a bottle.
That’s what happened to us. In his first month I offered him a bottle and then I stopped because I learnt that this could cause him a nipple confusion and he could stop nursing.
I didn’t want that!
So whatever milk I would pump, I would date it and put it in the freezer.
After a few months, I wanted to start offering him that milk, but he didn’t want to accept the bottle.
So we never used it anymore and it ended up going bad.
Be very careful, breast milk goes bad after 9 months even if you put it straight away in the freezer once pumped.
I remember, that I wanted to give it away but when I decided that I realized that it was over 9 months so I ended up throwing it away.
I felt really sorry for it! So, if that’s the case for you, consider donating!
There are plenty of women who would like to offer breast milk to their baby but they can’t.
Just something to keep in mind!
On the other hand, if your baby will accept a bottle, try and find teats that are very similar to a nipple. Also, make sure that they are SLOW FLOW for your newborn. This means that your little one would still put on some effort to feed. Also, he won’t be chocking while drinking from the bottle.
Personally, I used the Closer to Nature bottles from Tommee Tippee and the bottle that came with my Medela pump.
But there are lots of other good ones out there.
About pumped breast milk
Lastly a few more things about breast milk that has been pumped:
- You should never put it in the microwave!
- If you want to warm it up, put the bottle into hot water and leave it there for a few minutes. Remember to check its temperature on your wrist, not by drinking. Your wrist is more sensitive than your mouth.
- If you want to feed your baby milk from the freezer, you should always defrost it in the fridge. Put it in on the night before the day you want to give it to your baby.
- Once pumped, you can leave it out at room temperature for up to 5-8 hours without going bad. More info on how long should you keep breast milk out at room temperature click here.
8. How to prevent mastitis?
I am not going to lie, this was my number one fear! I read online a lot of things about mastitis, and they were not necessarily good things.
So, all I ever wanted is to don’t get mastitis. I wanted to do anything I had in my power to prevent it from happening.
Huge success! I never got mastitis and I am so happy about it.
There are a few things that you should do as soon as you feel that something is not right. It could be anything from discomfort to engorged or painful breasts. You should never wait! Mastitis can get really ugly and painful, so do whatever you can to avoid getting it.
You’re more likely to get mastitis in those first 3 months. That’s because your milk is irregular and your body produces milk constantly.
So please don’t think that because you’re feeding your baby at every 2-3 hours, that’s when your body produces milk.
This will start happening after 3-4 months.
If you know that you have to go, you could put your baby onto your boob as soon as you feel that you’re breasts are engorged. And if you have to go out without your baby, remember to take a pump with you.
Here is exactly what I did to prevent it:
- I put my baby to the breast when I felt the need
- I used a pump
- Hand express
- Warm towel
9. Avoid having a nursing schedule
Forget about having a nursing schedule, especially at the beginning.
I know many women won’t agree with me on this one.
After I gave birth I was told by my midwives to feed him every 2-3 hours. Because I didn’t know much about anything, I listened to them.
Unfortunately, it was a huge mistake!
That’s why he has lost more weight than he was allowed to. I know that a newborn baby should lose up to 10% of his birth weight.
Well, my baby has lost 12%.
Some of the reasons were:
- My milk ducts were clogged
- Delay in breast milk production
- Having a nursing schedule
Now I know my mistakes and I were to go back in time I would do things very differently.
Newborns are very sensitive to everything. They don’t really know how to nurse properly, they sleep a lot and they poop a lot.
That’s all they do.
Eat. Sleep. Poop. Repeat.
I took the decision to nurse him on demand. So I would nurse him all the time. Whenever he woke up I would put him onto my breast.
That’s how he started to gain weight. I was super content about that.
That was everything for this mega article!
But it embodies everything you NEED to know about breastfeeding your newborn baby, especially if you are a new mommy.
I really hope you’ve found this article helpful!
Please if you have anything else to add to this list, just leave them in the comments so that other mommies can see them!
Until next time take care & stay beautiful!
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