4 Tips To Help You Breastfeed After an Unexpected C-Section
I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed; there was no doubt in my mind. I had seen my sisters-in-law breastfeed multiple children over the years and it just looked so natural. It was one of the things I looked forward to most in motherhood. Therefore, during my pregnancy I went to breastfeeding classes, read books on breastfeeding and researched breastfeeding to the max. I felt like an expert on the subject, and I thought it would go so smoothly.
Well, it went far from smooth. If you read my blog about my labor and delivery story, you know that I had a C-section and a complicated recovery. Being connected to a million cords and having an allergic reaction to the anesthesia made breastfeeding nearly impossible for me. On top of that, my milk supply did not come in until day FIVE which made my new little human extremely unhappy during his first days of life
Therefore, lesson learned. You can be as researched as you like on the subject, but you never know how it will go until you are in the moment. Therefore, I would love to offer some advice and recommend some products that could ease your breastfeeding experience after a C-section—and after a natural birth as well, because let’s face it, for the majority of women, breastfeeding is far from easy.
The Latch: Have a nipple shield on hand!
First things first, the latch. The classes and the books always talk about a baby’s latch and how important it is for your baby to have a great latch for a successful and pain-free breastfeeding experience. In my breastfeeding class, I learned to tickle your baby’s nose with your nipple, which will cause her to open her mouth. Then, you should shove (I’m emphasizing shove because all of the lactation consultants, I kid you not, shoved my boob into Lennox’s mouth to the point of suffocation) your the bottom of your areola and nipple into your baby’s mouth. Interestingly enough, that was when he got his best latch.
After my breastfeeding classes, and research, I thought to myself, ‘great, it can’t be that hard!’ Well, what happens when you have a “non-existent” nipple or a flat nipple like myself, and your baby’s incy-wincy, newborn-mouth cannot grasp the nipple? Oh, and don’t forget, you just had a C-section so, you will have machines attached to all four of your limbs (no joke) so have fun trying to hold a baby and shoving your nipple into her mouth.
Lennox was having a tough time latching. I had about three or four lactation consultants visit my hospital room trying to show me proper positions, different techniques, etc. It wasn't until the third day when a new lactation consultant had me try a nipple shield. FINALLY!!!! Not only was Lennox sucking and soothing, but I also finally saw some of my colostrum on the nipple shield. What a relief!!!!
I used the Medela Nipple shield at the hospital. Once I got home, I tried other brands, but Medela was by far my favorite. I would recommend packing a couple of these in your hospital bag. Note*, when purchasing your nipple shield, don’t forget that there are different sizes. This is very important because if it is too big, there will not be enough suction on your nipple to extract the milk. For my small nipple/big areola combination, I used the 16mm.
2. The Medela Hand Pump will be a life saver!
Another must have item in your hospital bag is the Medela Hand Pump. The day after Lennox’s birth I started to worry because he was extremely fussy. This made me believe that apart from his poor latch, my milk supply wasn’t in. The nurses and lactation consultants recommended that I hand express. I was able to squeeze out some colostrum, but again, this is not very easy to do while attached to machines and also having to tend to the needs of a hungry and impatient newborn.
After expressing my concern that Lennox wasn’t getting enough breastmilk to a nurse, a lactation consultant finally brought me an Ameda hand pump. I hated this pump. The suction was awful, and the way you have to squeeze it would make my hand cramp. I preferred simply hand expressing. After this pump, I wrote off all hand pumps thinking they were all just as useless.
I was QUITE wrong! A couple of weeks into my breastfeeding journey I purchased the Medela Hand Pump, and I was pleasantly surprised. So surprised I almost ditched my electronic pump for it. It has an ergonomic swivel handle which allows you to pump with ease, and even better you don’t even have to pump the handle much! Once you get a good suction and flow, you can literally hold the handle down for seconds at a time and watch the continuous milk flow.
I wish I could have had this hand pump with me at the hospital. Maybe then I could have stimulated my milk supply to come faster, and I would not have been stressed out trying to hand express, and dealing with cheap hospital hand pumps.
3. Take advantage of the Hospital Grade Electric Pump while you can and pump, pump, pump to get that flow going!
4. Have a pumping bra with you
So if I didn’t mention enough already, your hands are going to be tied up after your C-section. So this next item is something that would have been very useful to me — a pumping bra. If you are experiencing a low milk supply or lack thereof as in my case, the hospital can provide you with an electronic grade pump. Even if you’re not having a supply issue, a pump can be useful to store milk or relieve over-full breasts. Don’t forget that just because it’s doing the pumping for you, you still have to hold the pumps to your breasts, making it not that much easier. Well, there’s a solution to that — a pumping bra.
The bra featured below is a pumping and a nursing bra combined which is extremely convenient, BUT if you’re frugal like me, you can make a DIY pumping bra. All you have to do is take an old sports bra and cut two holes right where your nipples are. I would suggest putting on the bra first and marking it with a pen or pencil instead of winging it as I did. It is not as convenient as the bra shown below, but it gets the job done. A pumping bra will also make your life a lot easier when your baby finally goes down for her nap, and you need to pump, but you need to satisfy your other needs such as eating, drinking a glass of wine, etc..
I hope these tips and products will aid your hospital and breastfeeding experience. I know they would have made my experience a lot less stressful. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have regarding these products, breastfeeding or anything motherhood. More posts on breastfeeding are in the works. Thank you for reading =)