The golden hour after birth is a special time for mother and baby. It eases the transition for baby from going from the womb to the outside world by fostering bonding.
This period of bonding between mother and baby takes place immediately after birth and lasts up to an hour or longer.
While this period of time greatly promotes bonding, there are many other benefits as well.
As someone who missed the golden hour with my first born due to complications, I highly value this critical time between baby and mother as a necessity after birth.
Here’s the many amazing benefits from the golden hour after birth for you and your baby!
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Let me start my saying that I DID NOT have the opportunity to bond with my first born son immediately after birth. Instead, my son had to be resuscitated and was under observation for six hours.
I greatly regret not being able to see, hold, breastfeed, and bond with my newborn baby after birth. Even though I didn’t get to experience this with my son, I feel early motherhood would have been easier for me if I had the golden hour.
Don’t get me wrong… I am more than happy my son was resuscitated and finally began breathing! That’s the number one goal compared to having a golden hour. All I’m saying is I missed this opportunity of bonding after birth along with its many benefits.
That’s why I am writing this article. I’m a huge advocate for the golden hour after birth!
Personally, I want to recapture this special time with the birth of my second child and reap the following benefits!
Benefits Of The Golden Hour
The Golden Hour Promotes Early Breastfeeding
According to the World Health Organization early skin-to-skin contact between mother and child after birth promotes early breastfeeding.
Through immediate contact, a baby will receive the first essential nutrients from mother’s milk known as colostrum. This “first milk” strengthens baby’s immune system, helps ease digestion to pass meconium (first poop) and prevents jaundice.
Along with receiving essential colostrum, evidence shows skin-to-skin contact after birth increases the odds of mother and baby exclusively breastfeeding for up to 4 months or longer.
The World Health Organization suggests a mother and baby should have uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after birth. During this period of time (the golden hour) mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed.
Regulates Baby’s Temperature & Respiration
When your baby comes out of the womb he or she will experience a dramatic change in temperature, along with respiration.
The human body learns to regulate body temperature over time. It’s not something that comes immediately once a newborn is outside the womb. This is due to the insulating fat layers on the body.
Simply put: Newborn cannot regulate body temperature because they’re too small.
When a newborn loses too much heat, they begin to use energy and oxygen they can’t afford to spare in order to regulate their temperature. This can all be avoided by placing baby directly on a mother’s chest for skin-to-skin contact.
The mother’s body heat will help regulate baby’s body temperature and contribute to normal respirations for a newborn.
Increases Delayed Cord Clamping
I’m sure by now you’ve probably heard of delayed cord clamping right? If you’re still unsure about what it is, then look no further.
Delayed cord clamping is the practice of delaying the clamping and cutting of an umbilical cord until after pulsations cease or till you’ve delivered the placenta. This allows for extra (last minute) nutrients to be carried from the placenta to your baby.
Since skin-to-skin contact during the golden hour promotes a newborn’s respirations, the cord will be connected longer to supply more red blood cells. This allows the newborn’s lungs to adjust naturally to breathing to life outside the womb.
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Through the wonderful world of science it’s been found that oxytocin receptors increase during pregnancy. These same receptors after birth promote a mother’s maternal instinct.
When a mother and baby practice skin-to-skin contact after birth the hormone oxytocin is released in massive amounts. As a result of early and prolonged bonding after birth, studies found that mothers exhibit increase confidence when meeting the needs of their baby.
Boosts Baby’s Immune System
In the womb a baby’s immune system is gearing up for life on the outside by understanding what is good and bad bacteria. This will help a newborn fight of infections.
When skin-to-skin contact does not take place after birth, a newborn will not be exposed to mother’s bacteria. A mother’s bacteria will increase a newborn’s exposure to both good and bad bacteria in the outside world, thus increase the newborn’s immunity.
Initiates Baby-Led Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is both stressful and hard for mother and baby. But within the golden hour babies are more likely to begin trying to breastfeed on their own.
What does that mean exactly?
Well newborns who are placed skin-to-skin will actually begin to “breast crawl.” A breast crawl is when a newborn will crawl around a mother’s chest in order to find and attach to a nipple.
Although baby and mama may need assistance for a good latch, skin-to-skin contact can promote a baby’s natural instinct to breastfeed. This will gear you and baby up for a longer period of breastfeeding success.
Helps Deliver The Placenta
Along with setting you and baby up for breastfeeding success, the golden hour will also help deliver the placenta.
Once a newborn starts to “breast crawl” and attach to the nipple to feed, hormones are release to cause uterine contractions. These after birth contractions help to deliver the placenta, which lowers the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.
Wards Off Separation Effects
Babies do not like to be separated from their mothers. Would you?
After nine months of being part of your mother’s body, you’re shoved out into a whole new world. That can be scary, especially for a helpless newborn baby!
In a study published by Biological Psychiatry, the heartrate and sleep patterns of 2 day old newborn babies was studied.
What the study found:
- Babies who had skin-to-skin contact with their mother had lower heartrates and better sleep.
- Babies who slept separate in a cot next to the mother’s bed had a 176% higher heartrate and a 86% decrease in sleep.
While more research needs to be conducted, this study by Biological Psychiatry shows that separating a mother and baby profoundly increases stress in babies.
Science still has not found a link between early mother and baby separation and long-term developmental effects on a child.
Naturally Promotes Baby’s 9 Instinctive Stages
The 9 instinctive stages of a newborn baby include:
- Birth cry
- Relaxation– Hands and feet relax; no mouth movements; occurs usually after baby is skin-to skin with mother.
- Awakening– Movement of the head and should; opens eyes; normally occurs about 3 minutes after birth.
- Activity– Begins the rooting reflex; increased mouth and sucking movements.
- Crawling– Begins to make crawling motions toward nipple for suckling; usually occurs 35 minutes after birth.
- Familiarization– Baby begins licking, messaging and touching mother’s breast; occurs about 45 minutes after birth.
- Suckling– Baby self-attaches to nipple and begins breastfeeding.
Doesn’t the 9 instinctive stages sound amazing!? While the golden hour does promote the natural instinctive stages of a newborn, there are factors that interfere with this process.
If you had an all-natural birth, then these stages will come easily for you baby. However, medications or an epidural can hinder the development of the instinctive stages.
It doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It just means your newborn might be a little slower to go through these 9 stages with the use of medications or an epidural.
Distracts From After Birth Pain
After you birthed your baby and passed the placenta, there’s still a lot of pain to come. Why?
Because you will still experience contractions in order to reduce your uterus down to its original size. While your baby tends to do this on its own, the uterus is greatly helped by nurses.
Every 15 minutes (or about there) a nurse will come in to press her hand against your uterus to help expel excess fluids and help the uterus contract.
Although it’s a nice gesture, I’ll be honest… It feels horrible! The last thing you want after birth is a nurse pressing into your sensitive stomach.
While you can’t do anything about the amount of pain you’ll experience from a nurse pressing on your uterus… Having the golden hour with your baby will help you (hopefully) be distracted from the after birth uterus contractions.
And a nurse pressing into your stomach with a fist!
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Like me, not every mother is able to experience the golden hour with their newborn. Complications arise in delivery that can delay bonding between mother and baby including resuscitation and a C-section.
As a mom who didn’t get to experience this magical hour, I have extreme regret.
No, I couldn’t have done anything differently to gain that special time with my son back. My baby needed to be resuscitated. Although I wanted to hold him immediately after birth… I’d much rather have him breathing!
So for him to be breathing and alive is completely worth skipping the golden hour!
Now that I’m expecting my second child I have two goals:
- For my baby to be delivered breathing (no resuscitation needed)
- To experience the golden hour
While I can try and protect the likelihood of immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth, complications happen and a birth plan is never set in stone. But I’m praying that no complications take place and this labor and deliver for my second child will be easier than my first.
This second labor and deliver is a chance for me to have a do-over with the golden hour!
For those mothers who experienced this precious bonding time after birth… Cherish the memories! It’s heartbreaking not to be with your baby immediately after birth.
As I look toward the near future of giving birth to my second son, I’m hoping and praying to gain all the many benefits of the golden hour for myself and my baby.