When you’re pregnant, you’re probably looking forward to lots of things, including, for many moms, getting to cuddle your new baby in a baby carrier. But if a C-section enters the equation, you might be wondering if it’s safe to try baby wearing in the early days. Luckily, the news is good here:
For most mothers recovering from a c-section, baby wearing is absolutely safe as long as you take a few precautions.
Carrying after a C-section is not only possible, but it’s really important. Perhaps even more important than it is for a woman who had a vaginal birth, depending on how the new mother feels about the surgery.
Benefits to baby wearing after a C-section
Early skin to skin contact is especially critical after an emergency or traumatic c-section (I’ve had this experience myself, unfortunately, with my second child). A traumatic birth can interrupt the normal biofeedback mechanisms surrounds bonding. And if the C-section was planned, the normal biological hormone cascade of labor and birth never got the chance to start.
In both scenarios, it’s extremely useful to find a way to enhance the ability for the mother and child to bond.
Many women who have c-sections feel like they’ve been cheated out of an experience that they desperately wanted. In these instances, the process of bonding through close contact with the baby can help move beyond a difficult start.
By keeping your baby close to you physically, you can help to promote security, facilitate breastfeeding, and even help yourself out if you’re experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression.
Skin to skin contact helps in the bonding process, and baby wearing makes it possible to get this closeness in a convenient way. This can begin right after surgery is over. Some women choose to use a sling or soft carrier immediately, especially if they’re comfortable using one.
If you haven’t used a carrier before you can also spend those first few hours cuddling your baby under a blanket or with kangaroo care clothing.
Being able to have close physical contact with your baby in the postnatal period can be especially important if your c-section was traumatic, and baby wearing is a great way to achieve this.
A new mom might also find that a sling makes her feel safer and more secure than holding her baby loose in her arms, especially if she’s still a bit unsteady. And a wrap or sling can make holding the baby both easier and less painful.
Finally, baby carrying after a c-section can allow families (especially those with older siblings) to get back into a flow of daily life more readily.
Consult with your doctor
Make sure you discuss your post-surgical recovery plans with your doctor. Although generally speaking baby wearing after a c-section should be ok, every situation is different. Only your doctor will know if you’ve had any particular issues that warrant holding off on certain physical activities (like using a baby carrier).
Listen to your body
While you should listen to your doctor – you should also listen to your own body!
A lot of us have the tendency to push ourselves more than we really should, especially when there’s so much we want to do after our baby is born.
Your body will give you signs if you’re over-doing it, and you should listen to them.
If you start to feel abdominal pain when you use your carrier, take a step back. I know it’s exciting (I mean, I like me some gear as much as the next guy!) But you’ll have a chance to use all of your cool baby items soon.
If your body is trying to tell you that it needs a break, just do it a solid and pay attention. It just evicted a small child, it needs to recuperate.
Avoid baby wearing if you’ve recently taken pain meds that could make you drowsy
You might be on some heavy duty meds right after your c-section. This isn’t necessarily the case, but it might be. Make sure to check the side effects of any medication you’re prescribed to be sure that it’s not going to make you drowsy while carrying the baby. Or operating heavy machinery.
Also – no matter how exhausted you are, never attempt baby wearing while in bed or asleep. Just. Don’t.
Make sure the baby is big enough for a carrier (typically at 8 lbs)
Some babies, particularly preemies or very small full-term infants, might not be big enough to be safely carried in a wrap. Even “newborn” carriers might not be appropriate for certain babies, including some babies with special needs.
When in doubt, make sure to seek the advice of a baby-carrying consultant as well your child’s pediatrician or medical staff at the hospital.
This advice pertains whether you had a c-section or vaginal delivery, of course.
Find a carrier that works the best with your c-section recovery
The important thing is to avoid any type of carrier that will irritate your wound or put added pressure on your abdomen.
Ideally you’ll want to make sure that your baby is positioned in the carrier with his legs tucked into an M shape. This will avoid the baby’s feet kicking against your tender scar area.
Once you begin to recover and your surgical wound is less tender, carriers with structured waistbands will be back on the table as a viable option.
But for now –
Some options to consider include double layer kangaroo-care shirts or soft carriers including stretchy wraps, woven wraps, ring slings, or meh dais with no waistband.
For an in-depth review of what I personally liked the best overall, you can check out my post on the best baby carriers for newborns.
For now, let’s look a little closer at two popular options:
A stretchy wrap is a great choice if you want to practice baby wearing after your c-section.
Stretchy wraps have a slight learning curve, but are easy once you get the hang of them. Because of the soft, stretchy nature of the fabric, these carriers are able to fit comfortably on both you and your baby, and won’t put additional pressure on your healing surgical wound.
A carrier like the K’tan can work very well after a c-section. This is what I used in the early days after my kids were born, and I had no trouble in terms of post-surgical pain. The K’tan keeps the baby high enough that there’s really no impact on the incision, which is a bonus.
A wrap that requires more maneuvering to get into place (like the Moby) is more of a challenge after a c-section. With longer wraps like these, you’ll need to reach around your body to tie the wraps into position. For some women this may cause pain in the abdominal area.
Rings slings are also a great choice post c-section. They allow you to carry your baby in a position that’s high on your body, upright and off-center.
Having the baby snugly fitted on you with a ring sling means that you won’t be feeling pressure at all around the area of your scar. Ring slings have no waistband, so that’s also a huge bonus for anyone who’s had a c-section.
A ring sling is a little harder to learn to use than the other types of carriers. But it is possible to get the hang of it with a bit of practice.
Make sure your carrier is positioned above your scar
It’s critical that you use a carrier that doesn’t fall directly on your scar. This is the reason I highly favored the Baby K’Tan after my c-sections.
The K’Tan put no pressure at all on my scar area, and I have to say I really appreciated that! (I did NOT appreciate that the hospital wouldn’t let me eat chicken fingers after my c-section, but that’s a topic for another day).
Would a soft structured carrier (SSC) work well after a c-section?
Let’s discuss this.
So, soft structured carriers (like the Ergo and Tula) are really popular carriers and super convenient for new moms. I have both and love both.
HOWEVER! SSCs also have waistbands that are likely to put pressure on the area near your new scar. Does that sound pleasant?
While these types of carriers might work with some body types, for others they’re more likely to cause discomfort post-op.
If you’re tall, you might be able to put the waistband high enough above your scar so that it won’t cause an issue. For shorter moms (i.e. women like myself who somehow seem to have been born without any real torso to speak of) there’s really no way to put the waistband high enough. Unless you want to be wearing the carrier as a scarf.
I do like a nice scarf, but that’s really besides the point.
As your scar heals it will be fine to have the carrier waistband down lower. In the early days, I’d recommend staying clear of that.
A lot of moms prefer stretchy wraps rather than structured carriers for the tiniest babies anyway. These are probably going to be more comfortable for you if you’ve just had surgery.
Make sure the carrier fits properly and gives you adequate support
Baby wearing after a c-section isn’t that complicated, but there are some things you’ll need to pay special attention to.
If you’re concerned about the fit or support of your carrier, try to find a baby wearing group to join. If there’s no local group, there are groups on Facebook that you can join, and you can get feedback by posting photos of your positioning. It’s especially important that the fit and support are on point if you’ve just had surgery.
An abdominal binder, which your doctor can prescribe to you before you’re discharged from the hospital, can also help you get the core support you need. Abdominal binders are available at the pharmacy if you aren’t prescribed one.
Don’t try to carry your baby for long periods of time after a C-section
This isn’t the time to push yourself too hard. If you have a c-section, you’ll have at least a few days to recover at the hospital. That’s actually one thing I loved about having C-sections! I know a lot of people can’t wait to leave the hospital, but I was all “Room Service!!”
Eventually, they make you leave.
Once you go home, the tendency toward over-doing it can be a real challenge for some moms. This is especially true if you also have older children to chase around.
Try to remember that your body is recovering from major surgery. Don’t allow yourself to carry the baby around for long periods of time.
Use the baby carrier for short periods of time, and then take sitting breaks. This is a much better plan for your recovery. And if you have friends or family around to help, use the help.
Don’t lift any other heavy items along with baby wearing
Newborns are tiny (well, kind of tiny and kind of big when you picture them actually being born). But a newborn is small enough that wearing one in a baby carrier doesn’t have too much of an impact on your core muscles.
The same cannot be said for larger objects (or larger siblings!)
So, I don’t care if your toddler is trying to tempt you into carrying her with some sweet moves. Don’t do it! And especially don’t do it while you’re already carrying the newborn in a wrap.
Practice your wraps ahead of time, especially if you know you’ll be having a C-section
Baby wearing can be a little daunting at first. Actually, a lot of baby gear can be a little daunting at first!
(Ok let’s face it, pretty much everything to do with having a new baby can be a little daunting at first).
Wraps are no exception.
Do yourself a solid here and spend a little time learning how your carrier works before you get home with the baby.
Practice with a doll. Watch a few YouTube videos (there are plenty of them, trust me). And check out my baby wearing for beginners guide to get you started.
Post c-section baby wearing and exercise
- Baby wearing in a correct position with weight that’s well distributed will help you tone muscles, improve posture, and return to form.
- As your recovery progress, aim to go for increasingly longer walks while carrying your baby. This is a great way to rebuild your strength and release endorphins, which is especially important in the postpartum period.
- In the early months after birth, going for walks while baby wearing is usually plenty of exercise. Be cautious about over-doing it at fitness classes that combine baby-carrying and exercise. Many instructors aren’t well informed about postnatal recovery and the mechanics of safe baby carrying.
Rest, recover and snuggle that baby
The early weeks are incredible (plus a lot of other adjectives that are less glowing if you’re recovering from a c-section).
Cuddle up, take it easy, and enjoy your new baby.
Here we are just a few months after my 3rd C-section. Looking great! Ok not that great but not that bad. Give us a break, we’re still not 100% around here.
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