According to the data from the National Family Health Survey-5(NFHS-5), it has been observed that 21.5% of infants are delivered via Caesarean section (C-section). Cesarean section, a surgical procedure involving an incision made on the mother’s abdomen and uterus, is typically performed under spinal anesthesia to ensure pain management and optimal conditions for the operation. While considered a relatively safe procedure, it is essential to acknowledge that, like any surgical intervention, C -Section comes with inherent risks, challenges, and a specific recovery period.
During our recent live session on Instagram, we had the privilege of hosting Dr. Sakshi Khullar Bhardwaj, a renowned expert in lactation sciences, to discuss the impact of C-sections on the early initiation of breastfeeding and explore possible solutions from a scientific and medical perspective.
Dr. Sakshi Khullar highlighted mothers\’ unique challenges after a C -section delivery. These challenges include:
- Delayed Initiation of Breastfeeding
- Difficulty in movement
- Pain at the incision site
- Fatigue, exhaustion, and drowsiness
Nevertheless, these challenges can be addressed to facilitate a smoother and more comfortable experience for the mother. A lactation counselor at the hospital can provide guidance on alternative breastfeeding positions that are suitable for mothers who have undergone a C-section. The hospital staff and nurses are also available to assist in positioning the baby at the breast during the initial few days.
As the mother gradually recovers, movements and activities become easier. However, fatigue and exhaustion may be common due to the significant changes in the routine and the frequent feeding demands of the baby. It is crucial to ensure that the mother gets sufficient rest and sleep. The support of the family or partner plays a vital role during this phase, offering emotional and physical assistance and by taking care of the baby when needed. Simple gestures like providing a glass of water or a meal can make the mother feel loved and cared for.
Education and information are paramount during this phase, as they empower parents and family members to make informed decisions. Attending breastfeeding and birthing sessions during the antenatal period can help the mother and immediate family prepare for the potential challenges that may arise.
By addressing these challenges and providing support, education, and guidance, we strive to enhance the overall well-being of both the mother and baby during the breastfeeding journey following a C-section delivery.
Importance of First Milk and Early Initiation
The significance of first milk and early initiation of breastfeeding can’t be overstated. The initial milk produced by the mother’s breasts, known as, Colostrum, is a highly valuable substance. Despite being present in small quantities, colostrum is rich in antibodies and vital nutrients that are specifically tailored to meet the unique requirements of the newborn. It plays a crucial role in establishing a solid foundation for successful breastfeeding.
Even in the case of a mother who undergoes a Caesarean section, the practice of early initiation of breastfeeding remains highly beneficial. By implementing golden hour feeding, which involves initiating breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, the mother receives important signals for milk production and subsequently supplies milk accordingly. Although breastfeeding following a c-section can pose challenges due to the mother\’s limited mobility, the caregivers or medical staff can assist in positioning the baby at the mother’s breast, enabling the baby to feed effectively
It is worth mentioning that if the mothers find themselves leaking breast milk prior to the delivery, they can collect and store this precious milk. This stored milk can then be given to the baby as the first feed, ensuring that the infant receives the valuable colostrum and its associated benefits.
Understanding the significance of colostrum and the importance of early breastfeeding initiation is crucial in providing optimal nutrition and immune support to the newborn. By promoting these practices and offering support and guidance, healthcare professionals can contribute to the successful establishment of breastfeeding, regardless of the mode of delivery, including C-Section.
Misconceptions about Milk Supply
Dr Sakshi Khullar, observes a prevalent misconception within our country’s population, which suggests that breastfeeding initiation is delayed due to a c-section delivery. While it is true that the commencement of breastfeeding may be delayed following a c-section, it would be inaccurate to attribute the delay solely to the surgical procedure itself. Numerous factors contribute to the establishment of breastfeeding at an early stage, and it is essential to understand that breastfeeding operates on the principle of demand and supply. The more the demand placed upon the body, the greater the milk supply.
Alternative positions for mothers after a C-Section
As previously discussed, mothers who undergo a cesarean section (c-section) encounter unique challenges that can affect their ability to breastfeed. These challenges, primarily stem from the healing and recovery process following the surgical procedure. However, with appropriate support from healthcare professionals, hospital staff, or family members, mothers can adopt alternative breastfeeding positions that alleviate pressure on the incision site and enable comfortable breastfeeding.
Two notable alternative positions recommended for mothers after a c-section are the football hold and the side-lying position. By utilizing the football hold, the baby’s body is positioned alongside the mother’s side, reducing any direct pressure on the incision area. Similarly, the side-lying position allows the mother to breastfeed while lying on her side, avoiding undue strain on the incisions. These alternative positions aim to promote both the mother’s comfort and successful breastfeeding.
Furthermore, the strategic placement of pillows can offer additional support to the mother during breastfeeding sessions. These pillows serve to provide stability and alleviate any discomfort, enabling the mother to maintain a proper position while feeding the baby.
It is crucial for healthcare professionals, healthcare professionals, hospital staff, and family members to be aware of these alternative positions and actively assist the mothers in implementing them. By doing so, they can contribute to the overall well-being and successful breastfeeding experience of mothers who have undergone a c-section.
Feeding multiple babies and Preemies
Feeding multiple babies and preemies is a significant concern in India, where a substantial number of births occur prematurely, often resulting in the necessity of a delivery. In such cases, mothers are strongly encouraged to practice kangaroo mother care(KMC) and prioritize frequent skin-to-skin contact with their babies, even in the days following birth. These practices offer soothing and comforting effects for infants, aiding their survival and development.
Moreover, mothers are advised to express breastmilk regularly to establish a gradual and consistent milk supply, ensuring they can adequately nourish their babies upon their arrival.
Although breastfeeding after a c-section doesn’t significantly differ from breastfeeding after a vaginal delivery, initiating breastfeeding promptly and adhering to on-demand feeding are key factors. By doing so the body becomes attuned to the baby’s requirements and adjusts milk production accordingly.