Nutritional challenges for Babies Born through C-sectionDr. Vikram K. Venkatesh
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Priya was a planner and had planned that she would deliver her baby naturally without any medical interventions. However, when the time came, her plans had to be sidestepped and she had to deliver her baby through a C-section. What added to her frustration was that this change in plan extended to her ability to breastfeed her baby as well.
In India One in every five mothers give birth through caesarean section. Delivering a baby without labor affects the health of newborn babies. It puts them at a higher risk for health complications and poses certain nutritional challenges.
Best Nutrition for Newborn Babies
All doctors agree that breastfeeding is the ideal source of nutrition for newborn babies. Human milk is enriched with all the nutrients necessary for a baby’s healthy growth and development. It is easy to digest and introduces healthy gut bacteria to build a strong foundation for the baby’s immune system. There is no formula or synthetic alternative that is as good as human milk.
Why Breastfeeding for Babies Delivered through a C-section is a Challenge
Breastfeeding after a C-section is harder than breastfeeding after vaginal birth. This makes it difficult for babies to receive the nutrition they need. There are many reasons for this.
Delayed Onset of Breastfeeding
Babies should ideally be fed within the first hour of birth. However, mothers who give birth to their babies through a C-section may be unable to do so until the effects of anesthesia wear off. When babies are born, they are awake and alert but by the time the effects of anesthesia given to the mother wear off, the baby may be sleepy and thus unable to latch on to the nipple. If the mother is given a spinal anesthetic or an epidural, she may be able to breastfeed the baby while she is still in the recovery room.
Pain Medication Can Make Your Baby Sleepy
Getting babies to get latched on to the nipple for feeding, is one of the biggest challenges. This is easier when babies are awake rather than when they are sleepy and cranky.
After a cesarean delivery, mothers are prescribed pain medication to make it easier for the body to heal. While the medication prescribed will be safe to take while you’re breastfeeding, it may travel through the breastmilk and make your baby more sleepy than usual. This is not harmful but does make feeding the baby more difficult.
Delayed Production of Breast Milk
The production of breastmilk is related to the stage of pregnancy. When a baby is born through vaginal delivery, the colostrum is produced almost immediately after birth. This first milk is the perfect first feed for a baby. This feed not only nourishes the baby but also stimulates milk production for the mother. After colostrum, it may still take 2-3 days for the breast milk flow to regularize. However, in the case of cesarean delivery, since the mother may miss out on the golden hour feed, breast milk may take longer to be produced.
Extended Separation from the Baby
If the mother is given a general anesthetic, it may be a few hours before she wakes up completely. Thus, the baby and mother may be separated. This keeps the mother and baby from having skin-to-skin contact. This can have a negative effect on the strength of the mother-child bond and make breastfeeding more difficult.
How to Overcome Nutritional Challenges?
Traditionally, if a mother is unable to breastfeed her baby the alternative was to feed the baby infant formula. However, today there are better and healthier options that are clinically recommended by leading international health bodies. Mothers producing an insufficient amount of breast milk may choose to feed their baby pasteurized human milk instead. This is milk donated by other lactating women and contains minerals and vitamins essential for your baby’s health.
Priya’s difficulty with feeding her baby made her turn to human pasteurized milk for a few days until she could produce enough milk on her own. As soon as this happened, she was able to get back on schedule with breastfeeding her baby. Meanwhile, the baby benefitted due to a seamless transition from pasteurized human milk to mother’s own milk, without any interruptions.