Choosing a Caesarean birth is a significant decision, and if you’re considering breastfeeding afterwards, let me share my experience with you. I am currently in my fourth year of breastfeeding since 2019 and plan to continue until at least 2024 when my youngest turns two, aligning with the World Health Organization’s recommendations.
Navigating Breastfeeding after Post-Caesarean Phase
It’s essential to be aware of the challenges you might face immediately after surgery. I remember one significant mistake I made – I let my newborn sleep for six continuous hours, which led to jaundice. Jaundice is caused by the build-up of bilirubin in blood. Don’t repeat my error. Breast milk contains ingredients that naturally lower jaundice, so frequent feedings can help prevent this condition, which, if severe, can lead to anemia. Remember that a consistent feeding schedule can help to lower the baby’s bilirubin levels.
However, newborns need to eat every 2-3 hours due to their tiny stomachs. This can be especially challenging following a Caesarean, as you might still have a urinary catheter and IV lines, making movements painful and uncomfortable. However, skin-to-skin contact is beneficial for both you and your baby, so try to do it as much as possible. If you can’t, that’s alright. You just had a major surgery!
In the first few days at the hospital, while you recuperate from this major surgery, you might need to extract milk and feed your newborn with a syringe. Don’t hesitate to ask the nurses for help. They are there to support you. The first milk is called colostrum which is nutrient dense and also high in antibodies to help build a newborn baby’s immune system. It’s extremely important for you to extract these golden liquid and try to feed your baby with colostrum as much as you can.
That’s the very beginning of your long breastfeeding journey ahead.
Next, Transitioning Home
Once home, you’ll need to establish a new routine in a new environment. If you already have a young toddler at home who’s been weaned, they might want to nurse again, so be prepared for that. If you don’t plan to reintroduce breast milk to your toddler which is likely the case, explain this to your toddler before bringing the new baby home. Otherwise, the toddler may get jealous and he / she may start to resent the newest addition to the family.
The most challenging part, in my opinion, is the sleepless nights, especially for exclusively breastfeeding moms. As your baby grows and their stomach capacity increases, they will usually sleep longer. However, until that point, it can be tough. You might opt to pump milk and feed by bottle to share feeding duties with a partner or caregiver.
You should not be pressured by the society into exclusive breastfeeding if it’s too tiring for you. Do what’s best for you and your baby. Ask for help if you need a favor. There’s plenty of ways to do breastfeeding. You can do exclusive breastfeeding during the day time and pump milk for night time.
One thing to take note however is the the milk production is triggered by the demand of your nursing baby. In order to keep up your milk supply with baby’s increasing need of milk intake, you must pump your milk routinely.
Things get better by the time your baby turns six months old, but then another challenge begins – teething.
Teething, Comfort, and You
If your baby enjoys a pacifier, that’s great! It provides a soothing comfort item for them. However, if they don’t, they will likely turn to nursing for comfort. This means you need to be mentally prepare to become your child’s primary comfort item. It’s a demanding role, but also a privilege to offer your child such solace. Be ready for many sleepless nights if you choose this path. You know that unfortunately the teeth doesn’t grow all at the same time. Once the teething phase starts, it will only end when your child gets his full set of teeth. On average, we are talking about 2.5 years of constant teething phase.
During this phase, your baby may seem more irritated than usual and they may have an itch to bite or chew everything. Their gum may hurt and turn red, and they will be salivating a lot. Hence, be mentally prepared that your baby might bite or chew your nipple while nursing. If you decide to continue breastfeeding, be prepared that you might face occasional bites. It hurts, but open communication with your child can help. Tell your baby gently that it hurts. You’ll be surprised at how much they understand. My two sons always stop biting once I tell them “ouch that hurts mama, no biting please”. Keep it gentle, yet strict and straightforward.
Other Breastfeeding Challenges You Might Face Along The Way
Leaking or “milk letdown” is a common issue that can lead to stained clothes unless you wear a breast pad. Don’t repeat the mistake that I did. Initially, I thought by pumping out some milks first it would reduce the chances of leakage due to milk letdown. However, it makes the matter worse as it stimulates more milk production.
The only way to handle leakage is to wear a proper breast pads. I have tried and tested several breastfeeding pads including NUK, Philips Avent, Lansinoh, Medela but I find the best ones are Pigeon Premium Care Breast Pads. It’s super comfortable and very absorbent. The adhesive also sticks very well and I have never experience any leakage with these Pigeon Premium Care Breast Pads.
Engorgement is one of the biggest nightmare when it comes to breastfeeding. Engorgement happens when your breasts become overly full milk. Your breast will become hard, swollen and painful. You may also feel some hard lumps on your breast. Engorgement needs to be handled immediately with care otherwise it can lead to mastitis. You can read on how to resolve mastitis here where a lactation consultant share some tips for breastfeeding.
Here’s also a video that I find particularly helpful in prevention and resolving mastitis.
Choose to use a Haakaa pump instead of electric pump will also help to express milk without triggering extra milk production. Haakaa pump is extremely easy to use especially in the middle of the night and does not require any electricity or assembly. Simply attach them to your breast for night time pumping! It’s extremely easy to clean as well in comparison to an electric pump with lots of small parts. I highly recommend the Haakaa manual breast pump.
Breastfeeding also implies some dietary restrictions. Certain foods and medications should be avoided as they can pass into your breast milk. You might even have to limit caffeine or drop alcohol. Alcohol and caffeine can pass into the breastmilk. This can negatively affect your baby’s development as well as reduce your milk supply. If you truly can’t drop alcohol or caffeine completely, consume them in moderation.
Some other common dietary restriction includes limiting foods that could cause gas and colic in babies. This may include broccoli, cabbage, beans etc. Spicy food may also cause discomfort to your breastfeeding baby. The list of foods to take precaution of during breastfeeding goes on and on. Personally, for me the key is moderation. Don’t eat too much of anything to avoid any potential complication is the safest.
Going Out Can Be Tricky
Going out can also be tricky if you have a well-established breastfeeding routine with your child. You don’t want to risk disrupting the routine, which might make breastfeeding more challenging. Your child needs to breastfeed like a clock and this may disrupt your plan of leaving the home to go somewhere.
If you are not able to bring your baby along with you, don’t forget to bring your Haakaa pump with you so that you may pump on the go. Its so small and lightweight, it very portable. Another reason I highly recommend the Haakaa pump. You can use them anywhere and anytime to express some milk to prevent engorgement.
After six months, some mothers switch to formula, particularly when maternity leave ends. That’s perfectly okay.
Why I’d Choose Breastfeeding Again
I made a lot of mistakes myself while breastfeeding. My first son was even admitted into the hospital due to my incorrect breastfeeding techniques. You can read about all the breastfeeding mistakes I once made here.
Despite these challenges, if I had to choose again, I would still breastfeed. The benefits for your child are significant. Breast milk provides essential nutrients and antibodies that boost your baby’s immune system. It also promotes a healthy digestive system and can even help prevent allergies and asthma later in life.
Moreover, breastfeeding is more than just a feeding process; it’s a unique bonding experience between you and your child. It’s an intimate time that you will never get to relive. Breastfeeding is a truly unique experience you should experience as a woman. Take some time to read on why you should experience breastfeeding yourself here.
Once you decide to stop breastfeeding, your milk supply will gradually decrease until it stops completely. This makes your breastfeeding journey a fleeting, albeit precious, period in your life and your child’s.
But then again, there is no right or wrong. If breastfeeding does not work for you or your baby, find an alternative way that works. Don’t be pressured into doing breastfeeding by the society. You of all people in the world would want the best for your baby.
In conclusion, good luck, mama!
Breastfeeding is simple, but it’s not easy. Yet, the rewards, both tangible and intangible, are immeasurable. You are strong, you are capable, and you are not alone on this journey. Lean on your support system, ask for help when you need it, and remember to take care of yourself too. You’ve got this!
If you think that these breastfeeding challenges will affect you greatly, you can do half direct breastfeeding and half pumping or supplemented by formula milk. Seriously, it’s okay.
Disclosure: All the product reviews are based on my own opinion and I’m not paid for it. This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links with no additional costs to you. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.