Dear Lactation Consultant,
Hi there. I could not find that this question has been asked so I am going to ask. With my first child I had a c-section. I tried nursing as soon as I could (which ended up being after I was in recovery for 2 hours and they had already given him a bottle). I tried to nurse him but it didn't seem like there was any milk. I tried pumping to get the milk flowing but nothing came out.
Could this be that I am one of the few mothers who don't make any milk? Or did I just not give it enough time and my milk didn't have a chance to come in? I really felt like I failed somehow because I didn't breastfeed and I really want to try it with this next baby. Can I pump exclusively and feed from a bottle? Will I make enough milk that way? Thank you so much!
Your story is a good example of why so many mothers fail to have a successful breastfeeding experience. What happens in the hospital during the first critical days after your baby is born can have a lasting effect on whether you are able to nurse your baby successfully, and that is really a shame. When you think about it, your breastfeeding experience can and should last for many weeks, months or even years, depending on how long you want to continue to nurse. The short time you spend in the hospital (even if you have a c-section, it's only a few days) is actually a very small amount of time when you look at the whole nursing period, but what happens during those first hours and days after birth can set you up to fail or succeed at breastfeeding.
The average mother's milk will "come in" 2-3 days after her baby is born. When a mother has a surgical delivery, this time frame is somewhat altered. Most c-section moms will find that their milk comes in about a day later. The early stimulation that the breasts receive from nursing or pumping primes the mother's body to start producing milk, but it isn't a process that happens instantaneously -- it happens over a period of several days.
I don't know how long you tried to pump after your baby was born, but it sounds as though you were discouraged by your early attempts, and probably gave up too soon. The odds of you being one of the very few women who are physically unable to produce enough milk for your baby are very slim, and there is certainly no reason to assume that you would not have milk for any babies that you might have in the future.
It is possible to pump exclusively and produce enough milk for your baby, but it is difficult, and certainly not an option that you would choose unless there was a compelling medical reason to do so (such as a tiny premature baby who is hospitalized, and is too small or weak to suckle for an extended period of time). Situations such as this are fortunately extremely rare. What you need to focus on is the fact that over 99% of mothers can produce an adequate supply of milk for their babies, if they are given correct information and have the support they need.
Hopefully, you will have a very different experience after your next baby's birth. Even if you find that you are going to deliver by c-section again, you can find out more about how a surgical delivery affects breastfeeding before your baby arrives, and set up your support system before hand as well. The article "Breastfeeding After a Caesarean Section" on my website (www.breastfeedingbasics.com) may have some information that you will find useful.
You also might want to check out the article "When Breastfeeding Doesn't Work Out". It may help you deal with some of the feelings of grief and failure that you experienced after your first baby's birth.
-- Anne, IBCLC
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Research Associate Professor of Psychology specializing in women's health at the Family Research Lab, University of New Hampshire. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in both the Divisions of Health Psychology and Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a La Leche League leader, chair of the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Taskforce, and the Area Coordinator of Leaders for La Leche League of Maine and New Hampshire.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett is author of more than 140 journal articles, book chapters and other publications, and author or editor of 15 books including The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood (2005, Hale Publications), Depression in New Mothers (2005, Haworth), and Breastfeeding Made Simple, co-authored with Nancy Mohrbacher (2005, New Harbinger). She is on the editorial boards of the journals Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse and the Journal of Human Lactation, and regularly reviews for 27 other journals in the fields of trauma, women's health, interpersonal violence, depression, and child development. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is the "Ask a Lactation Consultant" columnist on Pregnancy.org and serves on the Board of Directors of Attachment Parenting International.
Dr. Kendall-Tackett received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in psychology from California State University, Chico, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in social and developmental psychology. She has won several awards including the Outstanding Research Study Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and was named 2003 Distinguished Alumna, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico.