April is Caesarean Birth Awareness Month so we have written a piece on carrying after a Caesarean section to help you to carry comfortably when you feel ready.
Birth takes its toll on your body, as does pregnancy, for that matter, but a Caesarean delivery is a little different as you have all of the usual factors involved after birth, but also the added complication of major abdominal surgery to recover from.
Lots of people ask us when they can first use a sling after a C-section. The answer is, when you feel ready. In all aspects of carrying especially whilst pregnant or recently after birth, we strongly advise you listen to your body, do only what is comfortable, and build up to longer periods, if you wish to. This is just as important with a C-section.
What’s the alternative?
The post-C-section advice generally given is not to carry anything heavier than your baby after delivery. Maximising rest and recovery time is really important, but for some people lifting a newborn baby in arms can place more strain than a well positioned and well fitted sling where
the weight is held into you more closely and your arms are free to help you manoeuvre yourself more easily. You may also find that feeding can be aided by using a sling rather than supporting weight in arms or on a cushion. In this case you may wish to use a carrier from an earlier point. If you have plenty of help with lifting the baby, you may not feel the need to use a sling until healing is further underway. A sling may also be a useful tool for other family members and friends to bond with the baby and allow you to recover.
The issue is often that a waistband, or pressure around the waist can be uncomfortable following a Caesarean, so carriers that have no waistband, such as a ring sling or podaegi may be ideal. Carriers that have a waistband that can be worn very high may also be a good option, such as a meh dai or unstructured buckle carrier like the Integra or Mamaruga Zensling, where the waistband can be worn apron style high up just under the breasts avoiding any pressure low down on your body. Stretchy Wraps can be a great option, but often when these are tied around the waist they can cause discomfort, however, there are ways to tie that avoid pressure on this area, and move the knot down to the top of the legs.
Carriers with structured waistbands are not likely to be the ideal option in the early days. For some people structured waistbands may always cause discomfort if they rub on scar tissue, but this issue tends to become less problematic as the wound heals.
In all carriers and carries, it is important to get the baby into a good physiological position in which the knees are supported to be above the bottom, with the baby’s lower legs free from pressure from the sling. Raising the knees, in addition to supporting the baby in its natural position, helps to avoid baby’s feet being low on the mother and touching the wound or scar.
Woven wraps may often be the most versatile carriers around, but after a Caesarean section they can be tricky to get comfy, as many wrap carries involve tying around the waist, which may not be comfortable. Carries that avoid any tying at the waist, such as a Front Wrap Cross Carry Tied at the shoulder or a Kangaroo carry tied high at the back or side, a Front Double Hammock tied at the back or side, or a NoNoNo (No Ring, No Sew, No Tie ring sling) or a simple hip carry are all good options.
As above, avoiding anything in which the baby’s feet may interfere with the wound or scar is an important consideration when selecting a carry.
Sometimes a Caesarean may have been chosen or planned as your best possible birth and it may have been an experience that you were entirely at peace with. Caesarean births can be just as positive an experience as vaginal births where women feel empowered and respected in the process.
For many women, however, a Caesarean delivery may have been unplanned, happening in emergency conditions with little time to come to peace with what can be a traumatic experience. when birth doesn’t go as planned, whether in Caesarean or vaginal births a mother’s feelings of stress and grief can inhibit their ability to bond well with their babies. Skin-to-skin contact, touching, holding and gazing at their babies can help to trigger the release of the hormone Oxytocin which can aid attachment and bonding. This does not need to happen in a sling, but a sling may be a helpful tool for achieving this. Bonding with a baby does not take away the traumatic aspects of the birth, but where a woman has lost trust in her body (which is a common and understandable reaction, even though it isn’t an accurate reflection of the situation, or their body) carrying and nurturing a baby, and bonding with them, can help them to regain a respect for their body and to heal emotionally from the trauma of the difference between the birth that was expected and hoped for and the reality.
It is not essential to use a sling soon after a caesarean, and the decision not to do so is something that we entirely respect. We wish to support families to make choices that work well for them. However, we are often contacted by parents who wish to use a sling but feel that their Caesarean delivery is a barrier to doing so, so we wanted to reassure people that there are ways to use slings following a Caesarean section. As we have already said, please listen to your body, stop or change what you are doing if it results in discomfort, seek medical advice if you experience any issues that do not seem normal following your birth. If you need more help in carrying after a Caesarean then get in touch with us, consider our consultation service, or find your local Sling Consultant using Sling Pages.