This post may contain affiliate links. Original photography by Michelle Lange.
Recovering from major abdominal surgery is no joke. Recovering from major surgery while also trying to figure out how to care for a newborn (they don’t come with a manual!?) and navigate the ins and outs of breastfeeding is close to impossible. BUT as mothers we are rockstars and we just DO IT.
That’s not to say that a few tips from someone who has been through it wouldn’t be helpful! Today I am sharing my six tips for Successful Breastfeeding after a C-section, but you can also check out my C-section Recovery Survival Guide post for ALL my tips on general recovery and more of my story!
Six Tips for Successful Breastfeeding After a C-section
Lots of Skin to Skin
And as soon as possible! Though policies vary hospital to hospital, I would definitely ask for skin to skin during suturing. It wasn’t possible for us so I was worried Luca wouldn’t latch because we were separated for 40 minutes after his birth (while they stitched me up). I was overcome with joy though when they finally placed him on my chest he had no problem finding my nipple and latching like a champ. We did this right in the recovery room which was the next best thing! I kept him on my chest almost the entire time we were in the hospital which helped start off our breastfeeding journey just as strong as if he were placed on my chest directly after delivery.
Use All the Pillows
I actually found that for the first two weeks my nursing pillow plus Luca on top was uncomfortable to lay on my abdomen. So instead, I opted for using a regular bed pillow because it was softer and lighter. I also propped pillows behind my back and at my sides – the more pillows the better! My mom purchased this pillow for me which I used every single time I nursed Luca, whether in our bed or on the couch, for the first three months!
Try Different Nursing Positions
For me to be successful breastfeeding after a c-section, I used the football hold (under-arm hold) with Luca frequently because it positions baby’s body at your side and under your arm instead of across your abdomen. Your incision site will be super sore and, at least for me, I did not want anything going near it, even with all the pillows!
Another position that works for many mamas breastfeeding after a C-section is sidelying. I was not able to do this until about three weeks postpartum but many women swear by it and can do it right away!
Make a Breastfeeding Basket
I nursed Luca sitting in a reclined position in my bed or on the couch for the first few weeks until I could sit up better. Setting up a little nursing station helped so much because all my things were super accessible and I wasn’t constantly getting up, or even reaching very far. I grabbed a cute little basket and kept on my nightstand fully stocked. The basket was also super convenient because I could easily bring all the things with me to whichever room I was nursing in.
This is what I stocked my breastfeeding basket with:
- SNACKS (allllllll the snacks lol, you will know no hunger like breastfeeding hunger). I liked things like nuts, bars, granola, fruit – snacks you can easily eat with one hand!
- A giant water bottle or Yeti cup
- Lanolin for sore and cracked nipples (this one was my favorite because it was the only one that was 100% pure lanolin (which IS completely safe for baby!). Sidenote: I later learned the breastmilk hack – let your breastmilk open-air dry on your nipple to heal sore cracks! It works!! I Have also heard great things about these Silverette cups for healing but I have never personally tried them!
- Nursing pads for all the leaking – I liked these by Kindred Bravely or these by Lansinoh.
- Nipple shields (if you need them)
- Haakaa Pump, also for all the leaking! Read more about how I used this awesome must-have HERE.
- Burp cloths – we probably went through ten a day!
- A breastfeeding book – it was nice to have a little reference guide nearby! I suggest these: Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, Latch: A Handbook for Breastfeeding with Confidence at Every Stage, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
- I also kept Breathe Mama, Breathe close by and just read a page or two a day, the 5-minute mindfulness exercises helped keep me grounded! And I loved reading bits and pieces of The Fourth Trimester as well.
- Wipes – We primarily use Water Wipes but my favorite for my nursing basket was a small pack of Boogie Wipes for the “just in case” moments.
- Lip Balm
- Hair ties or, my personal favorite, hair clips
- Pain meds
- For Baby: Hairbrush, nail clippers, Vitamin D drops, Q-Tips, Gripe Water, Aquaphor, lightweight muslin blanket
Get a Cosleeper
For me, this was a non-negotiable! It was insanely hard for me to get up to lift Luca out of his bassinet for night time feedings (and Alex, though he woke with us, was not all about getting out of bed either). We even had the Halo Bassinest, which has the easy drop-down side, but it was not enough for me.
We decided to use the Snuggleme Organic baby lounger as our cosleeper right in the bed (please note this is NOT recommended by Snuggleme or the AAP). When Luca needed to feed Alex helped me prop myself up with pillows and then handed Luca to me.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a new mom, you feel like you should be able to do everything. I remember feeling so frustrated those first couple weeks that I couldn’t change Luca’s diaper or hold him for very long unless I was seated, but I could barely stand or walk so I surrendered to the help.
One of the hardest things was picking Luca up for feedings. So, make sure YOU sit yourself down and get comfortable first and then have your partner hand you the baby. It was a nice way to give Alex responsibilities plus he had to wake up with me for Luca’s night feedings!
Remember, you cannot take care of your baby unless you take care of yourself first. Your main priority those first few weeks is feeding your baby and healing your body. Have friends and family bring over home-cooked meals or do some cleaning so you can get the rest you need!