One in an occasional series of answers to common breastfeeding questions I field in my volunteer work as a breastfeeding counselor. Standard disclaimers apply as explained in this post.
You should know that even with a c-section, your body still knows how to make milk for your baby. It’s the delivery of the placenta that triggers the body to begin the process of your milk “coming in” which you may have already heard about. And your body has been making colostrum for a number of weeks by now! There is some great information about what’s called Lactogenesis (there are three specific states discussed – I, II, and III on this page. It can run a little technical but it’s worth a look.) on this page about lactogenesis.
These articles also discuss early-weeks concerns such as how to position the baby at the breast, what to do if you encounter problems, etc.Latch
The biggest suggestion I can offer you is to try to get the baby to breast as soon after delivery as is feasible, even if you’re still recovering. This can simply be a skin-to-skin connection between you and baby where the baby has the opportunity to seek the breast and try to latch (it’s a very innate process, as you’ll see.) A helper/husband/support person can aid you in making sure baby is safe if your mobility is impaired.
On a more practical front – most friends (I had only vaginal births) have told me that the best bet with cesarean is to get up and moving as soon after delivery as you can, as the mobility helps get all your parts working again (which is important for your release timing) and also just helps you feel better faster. If you feel pain or have concerns about the incision site, many moms find that holding a pillow against it can help them feel better. This can help when nursing as well, placing a pillow across your incision site. (I’ve even heard of moms who do this when they need to cough or laugh in the very early days, as it helps them feel less like they’re pulling at their stitches.)
Once you’re through the surgery and you’re with your baby, nurse often. Removal of milk/colostrum from the breast is what triggers the body to make more (this is explained in more detail in the lactogenesis link above.) A c-section baby may have been exposed to more anesthesia during delivery, though this is often less the case when dealing with a planned c-section, so you may not experience this. If the baby is sleepy or seems less interested in breastfeeding, try to do as much skin to skin contact (baby in just a diaper against your chest) as possible. This is one of the ways your hormones regulate, and also other body processes like body temperature. Babies in the early days should nurse 8-12 times a day (more isn’t out of the question either.) If your baby is sleepy, you can tickle her toes or under her chin to try to rouse her. Use the breast to tickle the baby’s cheek to get him to turn and indicate interest.