Monday, May 10, 2010

Nursing After a C-section

One of the hardest parts of my birth experience was not being able to nurse my son right away after my surgery. I remember the staff handing him to me in the operating room right after they unlashed my arms and they told me to hold him. "I can't feel my arms," I said.

"Of course you can! Just hold your baby!" they told me, shoving my burrito-wrapped baby into my body as they wheeled me down the hall. As soon as we passed my mom, I begged her to take Miles before he slipped from my hands, because I assure you, I could not feel or control my arms.

Though groggy, I knew I had a small window of his quiet alert period as my best bet to begin nursing. It was hard watching that ticking clock and knowing I was just too incapacitated to take advantage of the opportunity. Nevertheless, I was bound and determined that I would breastfeed this baby!

I'm not sure how much time passed, but I eventually felt like I could, or at least would like to try to, nurse. I still didn't have great control of my arms, but asked the midwife if she would help me out. Best decision ever! Shannon helped me to open my hospital gown and she positioned my baby on my chest for me and, now that I think of it, she held my breast for me, too. I remember feeling my son's little mouth searching around, trying to figure out what was going on, and then giving a little suck-suck. What a magical moment! It overpowered the drugs and made me feel really proud of myself.

I tried again every few hours and as I got more sensation and awareness back, my son and I got better and better at breastfeeding.

By mid-morning, my milk had come in, I had full control of my arms, and I was on my way to getting good at nursing a baby. Some of the things that helped me nurse right after my surgery were:
  • I was a total task-master about getting the lactation consultant in my room. I asked every time the nurses came to give me meds!
  • I asked each shift of nurses to check whether I was breastfeeding well, whether my son was latched on, and whether I had the c-curve hand position down pat.
  • The midwife told me about this amazing thing called side-lying nursing. Since sitting up, even with the support of the bed, was so painful, this ended up being a life-saver. Or at least a breastfeeding relationship saver! I learned to use 2 pillows and support my "down" arm along with my head to help my physical healing process and facilitate nursing.
  • I had a pediatrician who totally supported breastfeeding. He watched my son nurse at each of his first few appointments.
  • I went to a La Leche League meeting as soon as I was able and one of the leaders watched me nurse and gave me some tips.
The point is that I whipped out my boob to anyone who seemed like he/she would have some educated or experience-based advice to offer me. I threw my modesty out the window and switched my whole focus to nursing, especially since my surgical experience might statistically hinder our success rate.

Even with all this help, I had a bear of a time and still sometimes struggle. But I still love seeking nursing support!

What are some things that other moms did post-surgery to facilitate the breastfeeding relationship?


  1. Wow, Katy! You sure were dedicated!
    I also was afraid to hold my son after surgery, let alone try to nurse him! He was born at 9:45pm and I was not able to make an attempt until the morning. Unfortunately, the hospital lactation consultant came by before my drugs wore off, and so she was no help to me. The nurses were not very good about showing me what to do either - and, frankly, I was too exhausted to ask or complain. Luckily, I had done A LOT of reading on the subject beforehand, so I just used this knowledge, followed my instinct, and my milk production eventually increased on about the 4th day postpartum. My son was a chronic 'nipple nurser' which caused me a lot of pain and frustration. I was sore, engorged, and feeling pretty hopeless. After 2 weeks, I found that a local hospital had a nursing support group for anyone in the area who had a baby less than 6 weeks old. It was free, even though I didn't deliver there. It only took one visit to adjust our latch technique, a few more weeks to really get it right (thank goodness for nipple shields!), and at 5 weeks old, my son and I were nursing like champs! We continued this relationship until he was about 7.5 months old, and I am so glad that I persevered and eventually sought out the support I was lacking!

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Monica. Isn't it funny how we wait to seek help until things get really bad? And then once we find the assistance (at least for me) I can't believe how amazing the solutions are.