Are you worrying that your upcoming c-section might cause problems? I understand your worries; you’re so excited about breastfeeding, and you don’t want anything to stand in your way. Perhaps someone told you that it takes a long time for your breast milk to come in after a c-section.
Is that true?
I felt those same worries many years ago when I had my first c-section. My desire to breastfeed was so deep, and I was so worried that having a c-section would make it much harder. Then, I had those same worries when I had my second, third, and fourth c-section.
Here’s the deal.
While having a c-section might be a blip in the road, it’s not a reason for an unsuccessful breastfeeding relationship. It could present a few problems, but the issues can be overcome with determination and knowledge about proper breastfeeding techniques.
I’m here to reassure you that everything is going to be okay if you have a c-section. You can still breastfeed your baby!
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!
Table of Content
- How Long Does It Take for Breast Milk to Come in After a C-Section?
- What is Colostrum?
- How Do I Know That My Breast Milk Came In?
- Do I Need to Supplement Until My Milk Arrives?
- 7 Tips to Start Breastfeeding After a C-Section Birth
- How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply?
How Long Does It Take for Breast Milk to Come in After a C-Section?
Your breast milk will come after a c-section between two to six days after delivery. Typically, two to three days is standard, but until your milk arrives, don’t worry. Your body produces colostrum, which is all that your baby needs in the first hours and days of life.
Different factors can affect the production of breast milk. For example, medications that you might take could make your milk come in slower. If you don’t breastfeed your baby frequently enough, it could delay the production, and not bringing your baby to breast soon after birth could cause a delay as well.
Let’s look at two things that can affect how soon your breast milk will come in after a c-section – anesthesia and pain medicine.
The Types of Anesthesia and Breast Milk Production
It is possible that the type of anesthetic used during your cesarean section could affect your breastfeeding and breast milk production.
In most cases, except emergencies, moms are giving a regional anesthetic that lets you stay awake and watch the birth of your baby. With this type of anesthesia, the staff can move the hospital gown and monitoring equipment so that your baby can be placed on your bare chest. Skin to skin is crucial for bringing your breast milk supply quickly.
If an emergency c-section takes place, you will be placed under general anesthesia, and that will lengthen the time before you can breastfeed your baby for the first time. The delayed first nursing can length the time that it takes for your milk to come in fully.
Can Pain Medication Cause Issues with Breastfeeding?
You’re going to need pain medication after you have a c-section; it’s painful, trust me! Don’t feel ashamed for needing pain medication, but after the first two to three days, you should try to use the medicine only as needed.
Pain medicine can lead to excessive sleepiness in you or your baby, which can make it difficult to breastfeed in the beginning. You need to breastfeed your baby every two to three hours at the maximum, but if your baby is sleepy and hard to wake up, you might find that he isn’t rousing to eat until every four to five hours.
That length of time is too long. Not only can it cause problems with your baby gaining weight, but it also can lead to your breast milk not coming in on time.
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum is liquid gold, the perfect food for your newborn baby. It has everything that your baby needs for the first few days of life.
Colostrum is a yellow fluid that contains all of the nutrients needed for your baby to transition to life earthside. We know that when preemies drink colostrum, they have a better health outcome than those babies who don’t drink colostrum.
Surprisingly, you only make one to four teaspoons of colostrum per day. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but your baby’s stomach is only the size of a marble at birth! Your body knows the perfect amount of colostrum to make for your baby.
Here are some of the benefits of colostrum.
- Aids the development of your baby’s immune system because it contains your antibodies! This means your baby has some protection against illnesses.
- Acts as a laxative, leading to your baby’s first bowel movement – meconium.
- Produces a lining inside of your baby’s stomach that defends his system against germs and bacteria.
- Prevents jaundice and helps to flush toxins out of your baby’s body
- It is full of high levels of fats, protein, and salts that are needed for your baby’s complete nutrition and development.
- Prevents low blood sugar issues in newborns
Does Having a C-Section Effect Colostrum Production?
No! Don’t worry; having a c-section won’t delay your body’s production of colostrum. As soon as the placenta detaches from your uterus, the hormones trigger your body to make colostrum immediately.
The production of colostrum has little to do with supply and demand. It’s entirely based on your hormones, which don’t change based on how you give birth.
How Long Does Colostrum Last?
Typically, your body creates colostrum for two to five days after birth. Around three days, your body starts to make transitional milk, which is a blend of colostrum and mature milk.
It’s during this time that your baby’s stomach starts to stretch and take in more milk at a time. Your body starts to respond to this demand and kicks into overdrive to make more milk for your baby.
How Do I Know That My Breast Milk Came In?
The most common sign that milk came in is that your breasts swell and become engorged. Engorgement can be uncomfortable. Your breasts will hard and are as big as a football, or it feels like they are. They feel warm and painful.
Engorgement is no fun at all, but it means that your milk has arrived!
Another sign is that your baby starts to have transitional bowel movements. At first, your baby has meconium poops, which are those black tar-like poops. Then, they might look like an army green color as your baby receives colostrum.
Slowly, you’ll notice that the bowel movements change from green to orange and finally to a mustard yellow color. Breastfed babies have mustard yellow poops, and you should start seeing this around seven to nine days after birth.
You’ll also notice that your baby might have milk dribbling out of his mouth. Listen to your baby as he breastfeeds. Do you hear him swallowing often? That means your milk has arrived. Your baby will want to spend a lot of time breastfeeding now!
Do I Need to Supplement Until My Milk Arrives?
In most cases, no, you don’t need to supplement even if your initial nursing was delayed. Each time you supplement with a bottle of formula, your body isn’t receiving the signal to create breast milk. That could lead to it taking even longer for your breast milk to arrive.
If you do find a situation in which you need to supplement, such as your baby ending up in the NICU, make sure that you pump every two hours. The staff can give your baby your breast milk first and formula second. You also can request that the hospital use donated breast milk if it’s available.
7 Tips to Start Breastfeeding After a C-Section Birth
Breastfeed As Soon As Possible After Delivery
You might not be able to breastfeed in the OR, but you should be able to breastfeed in the recovery room. One of the keys to a successful breastfeeding relationship is bringing your baby to breast as soon as possible.
Nursing soon after your delivery helps to stimulate the release of hormones, which boosts your body to produce colostrum. You want to breastfeed as much as possible to encourage your milk to come in sooner.
Ideally, you’ll breastfeed every two hours, but don’t be surprised if you have to bring your baby to breast hourly.
Room In With Your Baby
While sending your baby to the nursery can be helpful to get some rest, some hospital nurseries give bottles of formula to the babies. You don’t want your baby to have supplemental milk; you need to bring your baby to breast as often as possible to stimulate milk production.
Avoid Pacifier Use
Pacifiers were created as an artificial nipple. While they can be so helpful, you want to wait at least a week or two to introduce them.
There are two problems with pacifier use while breastfeeding.
- They can lead to nipple confusion. Your baby might end up confused about how to latch onto your breast rather than the nipple of a pacifier.
- You might miss hunger signs and feeding opportunities. Two of my babies are pacifier-lovers, and I missed too many signs with my second baby that he was hungry. Once I realized, I removed the pacifier, and he quickly gained more weight.
Try Different Positions to Avoid Discomfort
Sometimes, holding your baby over your incision might be uncomfortable, so be willing to try different positions. The football hold, which is when you tuck your baby under your arm on the feeding side, is a popular choice for breastfeeding mothers.
Many moms find that the side-lying position is very comfortable. All you need to do is lay on your side and lay your baby in front of you, belly facing belly, and help your baby latch onto your breast. No pressure is applied to your incision area.
Consider an Extended Hospital Stay
I like to leave the hospital after 48 hours, but consider an extended hospital if you’re not feeling confident breastfeeding yet. Now is the best time to concentrate on nursing and bonding with your new baby. Don’t feel rushed to go home just yet.
Talk to a Lactation Consultant ASAP
While you’re at the hospital, ask to speak to a lactation consultant. Most LCs will visit all of the new mothers at the hospital, but if she doesn’t come up, ask.
Now is the perfect time to ask any of those little questions you have in your mind. If you’re worried about your baby’s latch or want to know if your child has a tongue or lip tie, ask the lactation consultant.
LCs are full of great information. If you’re having nipple pain or have a cracked nipple, talking to an LC can help you get to pain-free breastfeeding just like you hope.
Eat Nutritious Meals
Eating good, healthy foods is a must-have for all breastfeeding mothers. Try to eat protein-rich foods and stay away from junk food. Make sure you stay well-hydrated as well. Hydration is one of the keys to a full milk supply.
How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply?
If you think that you need to increase the supply, there are a few things you can try to encourage your body to make more milk.
First, make sure you have a low supply. Whether or not your breasts feel full isn’t an indicator of how much milk you have. With my fourth child, I never had engorgement. My third and fourth babies are two years apart, almost exactly, and I tandem breastfed them. I never had engorgement, but I made enough milk for two babies!
Here are some real signs of a low breast milk supply.
- Insufficient wet and dirty diapers
- Inadequate weight gain confirmed by the doctor
Assuming that you might have one of these two signs, then here are some ways to increase your breast milk supply.
Breastfeed More Often
The first and foremost way to increase your milk supply is by breastfeeding more often. Bring your baby to breast at least every two hours around the clock. Don’t let your baby go longer than two hours between feedings.
While that might seem like too often, all four of my kids breastfed every two hours around the clock for months. Three hours might be normal, but if your baby needs to gain weight, stick to every two hours.
Drink More Water
If you’re dehydrated, then you won’t create enough milk for your baby! Try to drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water. You can’t drink too much water, but it’s possible to drink too little water.
Power pumping is when you use a breast pump and pump every 20 minutes, 10 minutes, or a different schedule. The idea is that power pumping sends the signal to your body that this baby is super hungry, and we need to make more milk.
That’s indeed what is needed. Your body needs to receive a memo to step up the milk game, and power pumping can be one way to get that going.
Try Lactation Cookies
You can make your lactation cookies at home or buy them premade. There are many different brands of lactation cookies, but they all do have different ingredients. Check out each ingredient list to find one that you like.
The idea behind lactation cookies is that they’re full of lactogenic foods. You’ll notice an increase in your milk supply, but it doesn’t stop there. Bring your baby to the breast often and pump with that increase of milk. Together, it can help make more milk.
Drink a Beer
Moms need to relax too! Beer is considered a lactogenic food. The hops can increase your milk supply, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Yes, drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is totally safe, so don’t worry!
Oatmeal is my favorite way to increase my milk supply. I’m an oatmeal fanatic, especially baked oatmeal. I noticed that every time I ate oatmeal, my breast felt engorged. So, eat some oatmeal each morning to give your supply a jumpstart.
Having a c-section could delay when your breast milk is coming. Typically, a delay is due to either the mother being unable to breastfeed her baby within the first hour or two after birth or pain medication leading to excessive sleepiness.
Make sure that you bring your baby to breast as soon as possible after birth, ideally in the recovery room or the OR! Also, after you get home, try to take pain medicine only as needed to avoid excessive sleepiness in you or your baby.
Don’t worry too much. A c-section is no reason that you cannot have a successful and happy breastfeeding relationship with your baby.