Hi Hannah, I had a question in response to your last post about the formula options promoted by the Ministry of Health. I’m due to give birth to my third child in the next few weeks (in Jerusalem, G-d willing) by elective c-section.
I exclusively breastfed both of my older children for over a year, but I remember from past experience that right after my c-section it was very difficult for me to get up in the middle of the night to go get my baby for breastfeeding, so, feeling left with no alternative, I told the nurses to give the babies one bottle during the night and the rest of the time I would only breastfeed. After a c-section, the nurses are willing to bring the baby into your room for breastfeeding, but refuse to do so during the night. You have to get up yourself.
Since then (my last birth was six years ago) I have become more informed of all the intestinal issues and unbalanced flora in the gut that can start with that first bottle of formula and, this time around, would really like to breastfeed exclusively at the hospital. However, I am concerned that the night feeding will be too much for me to do right after the surgery. My reasoning at the time was that it was a matter of only one bottle a day (for 4-5 days, after which I would only breastfeed upon arriving home) vs. maternal well-being and recovery, as I found it too exhausting after the surgery and really needed my rest. This time, however, I really feel strongly about ensuring a “virgin gut” and would like to avoid any bottles whatsoever, if possible. Then again, am I being too “fanatic” at the expense of my recovery?
A cesarean section is major surgery, and mother’s recovery is important for the whole family. The baby’s health is equally important. Hospitals shouldn’t force mothers to choose between a long trek and exclusive breastfeeding. The hospital policy is the problem, not your desire to be with your baby! In some hospitals, including in Israel, mothers who so choose can have their babies back in their room within a few hours after birth until discharge, including at night.
People like to place their preferred positions in the middle, and label anything that greatly diverges in either direction as “fanatic.” You are simply trying to follow current health recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding.
Once the mother has woken up after surgery, the anesthesia in her system is no longer a concern. Most pain medications are also compatible with breastfeeding. Mothers will vary as to how soon after birth they feel ready to care for their babies and how much help they will need with breastfeeding.
While a few hospitals encourage the baby to be with the mother at all times, including after a c-section, other don’t allow the babies out of the nursery during the night. If a mother has had surgery or has any condition that makes her less mobile, she must find a creative way to be with the baby. Breastfeeding or not, babies belong with their mothers whenever possible. Here are a few ideas:
- Get help. Perhaps you know a neighbor or a relative, even for pay, who would be willing to spend the night, or part of the night, in the hospital with you. Confirm that the hospital will allow the person to bring the baby to you, with your signed permission.
- Choose a different hospital. If possible, choose a hospital that allows rooming in after a c-section.
- Consider pumping for night feeds. Express by hand or with a manual or electric pump, so that the nurses can give your milk to the baby instead of breastmilk substitutes. In the early days, when the amount of colostrum is small, express by hand into a syringe.
- Communicate with the staff. Even before birth, be assertive about your desire to have a good recovery while continuing to nurse your baby. The hospital might be able to find an orderly to bring you to the nursery in a wheelchair, or have a nurse bring you the baby. It’s also possible that the policy has changed since your last birth.
Readers: If you had a c-section in an Israeli hospital, did you have free access to the baby after birth? If hospital policy made it difficult for you to breastfeed, were you able to get around the policy? The reader is planning to give birth in Shaarei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem.
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image: Tova O.