Tommy's PregnancyHub

Breastfeeding after a c-section

Find out what you can do to establish breastfeeding after a c-section, including positions to make breastfeeding more comfortable

Your midwife will help you with the first few feeds in hospital and will help you get into a comfortable position. Everyone in your maternity team can give you support if and when you need it.

You may find it harder to establish breastfeeding after a c-section, for example if you have pain, if you have a drip in your arm, or you can’t move around easily. Both you and your baby may feel very tired, especially if you had an emergency c-section or needed a general anaesthetic. It may take longer for your milk to come in after having a c-section.

Once breastfeeding is established, women who have had a c-section are just as likely to continue breastfeeding as women who have had a vaginal birth.

Each time you see your midwife or health visitor, they will ask you how you’re getting on with breastfeeding. They can help you with any problems or worries you may be having. For example, if you’re having pain, they can help you find a more comfortable position or change your pain relief.

What can help with breastfeeding after a c-section?

  • Skin-to-skin contact with your baby in the first 24 hours after birth helps you bond with your baby and can help you start to breastfeed. If you weren’t able to have this contact, for example, if you or your baby were ill, you can still breastfeed. But it may take a bit longer for your baby to latch on and for your milk supply to come in. Your midwife will help you to get started.
  • Feed your baby as often and for as long as they want. This will mean your baby is getting the right amount of milk at the right time, and it will help your body produce enough milk.
  • Ask for help from your midwife or breastfeeding specialist if your baby has problems with feeding or if you need help when you’re in hospital. Don’t be afraid to press your call button for help.
  • Ask someone to pass your baby to you, so you don’t have to twist in bed to pick up your baby.
  • Ask your midwife for advice on expressing breast milk, as this may help to stimulate your breastmilk supply. A family member or friend can feed your baby expressed breastmilk if you need to rest.
  • Support from someone at home, if you have it, can help you focus on feeding your baby and resting.
  • Try different feeding positions, to find one that is most comfortable for you.
  • If your wound is painful, try putting a pillow over it to protect it.
  • If your wound is very sore or painful, speak to your midwife or GP about whether your pain relief needs to be changed.
  • Community support groups, such as breastfeeding cafes, can be a good source of support and information once you’re home from hospital – your midwife or health visitor can tell you what is available in your area.

Baby coughing up mucus after a c-section

Babies born by c-section may cough up mucus in the first few days, as they clear their lungs after birth. In a vaginal birth this usually happens as they squeeze through the birth canal. Because of this your baby may not be interested in breastfeeding or may not feed for very long each time.

It is important to keep trying to breastfeed, or express breastmilk, every 1-3 hours, so that your body continues to produce milk. Once the mucus has cleared, your baby should start to feed more often and for longer.

‘My premature twins struggled to breastfeed after my c-section, as they were so small and tired. So, I used a breast pump to stimulate my milk supply while I was in hospital and to keep up my supply once I was at home. I now feed them almost exclusively with expressed breast milk and I’m so pleased I stuck with it in the first few difficult days.’Jane

What are the best breastfeeding positions after a c-section?

Your midwife or health visitor can help you find a comfortable position to feed your baby. Two positions that avoid putting pressure on your wound are the under-arm (rugby) hold and the side-lying hold

For the under-arm hold:

  • Your baby lies at your side, under your arm.
  • Use cushions to support your back.
  • A cushion at your side will help to support your baby.

In the side-lying hold:

  • You lie in bed on one side
  • Your head and back are supported by pillows
  • Your baby lies facing you, tucked up close to your body.

Does breastfeeding stop me from getting pregnant?

Breastfeeding causes your body to make a hormone called prolactin. High levels of prolactic stop you from ovulating and getting pregnant.

However, it’s not always a reliable form of contraception, especially if your baby is sleeping through the night or if you’re topping them up with expressed or formula milk. So even if you’re breastfeeding, if you don’t want to get pregnant when you start having sex again after a c-section, use contraception.

Read more about coping emotionally after the birth.

  1. Beake S et al. (2017) Interventions for women who have a caesarean birth to increase uptake and duration of breastfeeding: a systematic review. Matern Child Nutr 13(4): e12390. 
  2. Moore ER et al. (2016) Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Issue 11. Art. No.: CD003519.
  3. NICE (2011) Caesarean section. Clinical guideline 132, London National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
  4. NICE (2006, updated 2015) Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth. Clinical guideline 37, London National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
  5. Su-Ying L et al (2011) Factors related to milk supply perception in women who underwent cesarean section. J Nurs Res. 19(2): 94-101.
  6. WHO (2017) Guideline: Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding in facilities providing maternity and newborn services. Geneva: World Health Organization.
Review dates

Last reviewed: 24 April, 2018
Next review: 24 April, 2021