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Surgery and the Breastfeeding Infant

Will my baby be able to keep breastfeeding after surgery?

When a baby is having surgery, it can be a scary experience for the parents and the baby. But the closeness and security of breastfeeding can be very calming and comforting. Surgery may interrupt breastfeeding for a period of time. 

You will have to stop breastfeeding at some point before your baby's surgery. Make sure you know when you can give your last feeding.

Managing breastfeeding after surgery

In most cases, your baby will be able to breastfeed once he or she is awake enough to drink liquids without problems, as advised by the healthcare provider. How long this will take will vary. But here are some things you can do to make the experience less stressful:

  • You may have to miss 1 or more breastfeeding sessions. Pumping your breasts to express your milk will ease discomfort and keep up your milk supply. This process will be a little easier if you plan ahead.

  • Ask your baby's healthcare provider where you may pump while at the hospital. Electric pumps are often available to use. If you will be missing more than a few nursing sessions and won't be at the hospital all the time, think about renting an electric breast pump from the hospital.

  • Steady milk production depends on effective and regular milk expression until your baby is ready and able to breastfeed again. Pump on the same schedule as your baby would normally breastfeed. Use a double collection kit that lets you pump both breasts at once. Most mothers will need to pump for about 10 minutes when double-pumping, or 10 minutes on each breast. If your baby is a newborn and your milk has not yet come in, pump at least 8 times in 24 hours. You may not see any milk during the first few pumping sessions. And you may only get drops for several sessions after that. The milk produced before days 3 to 5 after delivery is called colostrum. It is normally produced in low amounts. But colostrum is very rich in the anti-infective factors that are important for your baby.

  • Breastmilk may be frozen for several months. Or it can be refrigerated and used within 4 days after pumping. You will need to correctly collect, label, and store your milk. Talk with a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) for more information about pumping and breastmilk storage.

  • In most cases, you can resume breastfeeding when your baby has woken up from the anesthesia. But surgery can be very disruptive. Your baby may not be interested or ready to breastfeed right after surgery. If your baby is not able to breastfeed the normal length of time, you can pump after the feeding. This will empty your breasts and maintain your milk production.

This is a stressful time for your family. So you may find that your milk supply is reduced. Remember to rest. Also be sure to eat and especially drink enough fluids during this time. This will help you stay healthy and maintain your breastmilk supply.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Mary Terrell MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2018
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