I value honesty and being honest myself, so I am going to confess something to you all. I had to google what the golden hour was. I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t immediately recognize this term. The Golden hour refers to the first hour after birth. I knew that the moments after your little one is born are very important, I just didn’t know there was an actual term for it.
Back in the day, so far back it almost seems prehistoric. Mommy-baby bonding time always took a back burner to medical procedures immediately following birth. Moms would have to wait sometimes hours before they would be able to bond with their babies. Nowadays, hospitals are encouraging close interaction between moms and their babies immediately following birth.
Moms are starting to realize the importance as well. Moms are starting to place skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord-clamping and others into their birth plans. Ensuring that they don’t miss out on that special bonding time. Moms who have a C-section often feel defeated as they often miss that initial bonding phase while they are being patched up. More and more hospitals are trying to ensure that minimal time is left between birth and bonding for these moms.
There are many things to know about the super special golden hour, here are 15 of them.
15 Baby-Led Initiation Of Breastfeeding
One of the things I found fascinating (and so did my non-breastfeeding mom) was watching my just minutes old baby try and find the nipple to feed. This is a huge benefit of the golden hour. Hospital staff want to introduce baby to breastfeeding within the first hour. Not only does this play a role in mother-baby attachment, but it also helps to expel the placenta more quickly and easily. This reduces the risk of postpartum haemorrhage.
Like my infant it is not necessary for a caregiver to assist baby in latching on, though they will try to help. When immediately placed skin-to-skin with mom, a baby will instinctually crawl to their mother’s breast and attach themselves to the nipples. They have even called this the ‘breast crawl’. Babies are after all, mammals, and just like their wild counterparts they know how to get to their food source.
14 Body System Regulation
Babies when brought into the world, have just left this nice warm womb and are thrust into cold, manufactured air. Doesn’t sound like a nice homecoming! During the golden hour, when babies are placed skin-to-skin with their mother they are better able to regulate their temperature and respiration. Newborns lack insulating fat levels that children and adults have and can not regulate their own temperature.
If a baby loses too much heat, they must use energy and oxygen that they don’t have to spare to try and keep warm. Also, by un-disturbing the first hour with skin-to-skin, it also helps reduce the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Little ones can produce glucose from their internal stores of energy until they are breastfeeding well and they are more likely to breastfeed well when they are skin-to-skin with their mothers.
13 Promotes Delayed Cord Clamping
Delayed cord clamping has become more popular in recent times. It is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the leaving of the umbilical cord intact while it is still pulsating. It goes to show how birthing has changed over the years, they used to cut the cord as soon as that little baby was out. By delaying the big snip you allow your baby to receive oxygen via the placenta while adjusting to breathing with their own lungs. Being with mom helps to stabilize respiration. Which means that they are able to keep their cord attached for longer, giving them a chance to receive red blood cells and reduce the risk of iron deficiency anaemia.
Now, women who have to have a C-section may feel like there is no way this is an option for them. Delayed cord clamping is possible, but not in all cases. It is important to speak to your doctor about your wishes and work with your medical team on how to achieve this very special thing.
12 Promotes Mother And Baby Attachment
Most expectant moms think that once their little one is born they will have an immediate bond with their baby. That is not always the case, in some instances it takes a while for the maternal instinct to kick in. This is another reason why skin-to-skin during the golden hour is so beneficial. Mothers who experience prolonged skin-to-skin are more likely to feel confident and comfortable in meeting their babies’ needs than those who had none. Just like food, attachment is just as critical to newborn survival.
Now for some science; oxytocin receptors in a woman’s brain increase during pregnancy, so when her little one is born, she is more responsive to the hormone that promotes maternal behaviour. When a mother breastfeeds or holds a baby close, oxytocin is produced in large amounts. They have done studies that show that a mother who had early skin to skin with their babies were more likely to demonstrate bonding behaviours later in their child’s life.
11 Improves Breastfeeding Success Rates
Breastfeeding can be a challenge for many. It is hard, painful and sometimes it feels like its all a woman does. But, a lot of woman want to breastfeed their baby, and this is where the golden hour comes in. Like I stated earlier, breastfeeding initiation is more successful with skin to skin babies. The duration is also likely to be more successful after those early cuddles.
The World Health Organization recommends that women exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first 6 months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. This is important information for countries where breastfeeding rates significantly drop a few months after birth, such as America, Australia and the UK. By creating that initial introduction and skin to skin in the golden hour, it will ease the common problems breastfeeding moms experience, therefore allowing them to breastfeed for longer. Golden hour = Liquid gold!
10 Protects Against The Effects Of Separation
Any mom who has enjoyed the golden hour with their little one will notice one thing. Little babies are born excited to interact with their mothers. A newborn baby will be very alert and stare into their mother’s face. Of course, after 9 months sharing a body, a baby recognizes her smell, sound of her voice and touch of her skin. Human babies are much like mammal babies and they have a primal instinct to not stray to far from their mother. Only with their mother do they find warmth, safety and nourishment. Babies’ will cry and protest loudly when their mother is far, and mother has a primal instinct to react to her offspring’s cries. Nature really is a wonderful thing.
This is why the golden hour is so critical for baby, maybe even more than mom. They have just undergone a traumatic experience and have left the only home they have known, if a baby is separated during the golden hour they may go into a state of despair. They essentially give up and become still. Which in the wild world, would help to not attract predators.
9 Boost That Immunity
No one wants to see their child get sick, it is sad and exhausting. Skin to skin in the golden hour can help prevent this by boosting baby’s immunity. When a baby is born, they leave a near-sterile environment within their mother’s uterus. When they are within the womb, their cells are trained to understand what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. This gives them a fighting chance by letting their immunity system know when to fight off infections and protects them from future diseases.
Research has indicated that if a baby is not given this opportunity within the golden hour then the baby’s immune system may not reach its full potential, therefore, leaving the baby at risk for diseases in the future. One of the main reasons for this delay is a C-section. But all my C-sections Mama’s out there don’t despair, you can work with your medical team on getting in on some of that golden hour time, and there are a lot of other ways to boost your baby’s immune system.
8 Helps Deliver…The Placenta
You have been through hours of contractions, back pain and pushing. Finally, your little one is here and you are so relieved you could actually fall asleep. Then the nurse tells you that you still have to deliver the placenta. WHAT? You see, the delivery of the baby is actually only the second stage of labour. The final stage of labour is delivery of the placenta.
Within the golden hour, after the baby is born, that sneaky hormone oxytocin comes back into play. By placing the baby on the mother during the golden hour, oxytocin is at its highest within the mother blood stream. The level of oxytocin helps stimulate the uterus. By stimulating the uterus, the blood vessels will close and help separate the placenta from the uterine wall. Some women of course have an easier time than others in delivering the placenta. Some have to push and some it just kinda falls out. Gross!
7 More Pain
That’s right, after you have endured labour for hours with contraction after contraction, you are met with relief right after that baby slides out. Then the nurse comes in and says she will have to press on your stomach to help your uterus contract back to the normal size. No problem, right? WRONG! It hurts! I remember thinking it was more painful than a contraction.
The nurses have to do this over the course of that first hour to ensure that your uterus is contracting back to the normal shape, which starts happening immediately after the area has been vacated. The only way the nurse can do this is by pressing down on your uterus every 15 or so minutes for the first hour. Having your beautiful little baby with you may make this process easier and provide you with some distractions, but, it didn’t work for me.
6 What About C-Sections
If you are reading this and have had or are going to have a C-section, you may be feeling left out. Don’t despair, you do have opportunities. Of course, have a C-section is not the ideal position for immediate bonding, we all know that. There are ways to do it though. When the baby first comes out, he/she will be taken to a warming table for a quick assessment. If the baby is well, they really don’t need to do anything else right away.
Parents can discuss with their medical team that if everything looks good with the little one, than they wish for the baby to be brought over to lay on mom’s chest right away so that bonding can begin. Dad’s can sit and admire. If for some reason mom is not awake or alert, Dad can start the bonding. It is important that baby feels bonded with someone that first hour. They won’t mind some Dada cuddles.
5 What Happens To Baby
During the golden hour, lots of routine tests will be done on your baby to ensure that everything is looking good. Much more than just counting fingers and toes. A lot of these things can be done while baby is on mom’s chest so it shouldn’t interfere with the bonding experience. During the actual birth a nurse would have suctioned the baby’s nose and mouth to clear fluids, but they may need to do more after.
At one and five minutes after birth, a nurse will complete an Apgar assessment. This assessment is used to assess and evaluate your baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response and colour. This test can normally be done while baby is lying on you. If all of this is well your baby will not be separated from you. The only medical reasons for why a baby may be momentarily separated from mom is to administer a Vitamin K shot and to apply antiobiotic ointment on their eyes.
4 9 Stages
During the gold hour, your baby will go through 9, yup 9, instinctive stages. Seems like a lot for a little bitty baby, but it really isn’t. They are:
1. The Birth Cry – the first cry that opens the lungs2. Relaxation – baby’s hands and feet relax3. Awakening – baby becomes alert and looks around4. Activity – baby becomes even more active, may start searching for breast. This is about 8 minutes’ post birth.5. Rest – baby will take multiple periods of rest throughout the hour6. Crawling – Usually starts around 35 minutes’ post birth7. Familiarization – baby may start making noises and looking around the room8. Suckling – This happens at about the hour mark, and it is when the baby latches onto the mother’s breast9. Sleep – soon after that first hour is over, the baby and mother may fall asleep and finally get some rest
Seems like a lot for a new little person to go through. Looking back on my own delivery, I can remember my baby going through these stages.
3 Babies Can Smell
If you are anything like I was, then you spent countless hours googling how your little bean was developing in the womb. So I knew exactly when my baby developed taste and smell buds. The golden hour is the perfect time for your little one to get used to using his/her senses.
Experts believe that the amniotic fluid your little one has been floating around in actually carries smells through the mouth and nose of the fetus. They have done studies that show babies have an easier time adjusting to the drastic change of environment when they can still identify with the smells that they are familiar with.
Within the golden hour, when your baby begins the breast crawl to your breast to start feeding, they know where to go because they recognize the smell of your breast milk from inside. Nature has somehow designed colostrum to smell very sweet to entice little baby noses to it. Pretty cool!
2 Babies Can See Too!
Along with being born with a sense of smell, your baby can see as well. They can’t see particularly well, but they can. A babies sight is very blurry at birth and they can’t see far distances, but nature did it again, they are able to see a mother’s face at a distance that is normal for when they are nursing. This is why during the golden hour it is important to place your face close to your baby so they are bale to clearly see you.
A baby’s sense of hearing is very sensitive at birth. In the golden hour, you baby is very sensitive to volume, so it is important to speak in hushed tones. Since baby can hear while in the womb, they will already recognize your voice, so during that golden hour, lean down and sing softly into the baby’s ear and feel them nestle into you close.
1 Golden Hour Is For Dad Too!
Understandably, all of these amazing things about the golden hour involve the Mom. But, I don’t want my dads out there to be left out. Dad’s can 100% be involved in the all important golden hour. Dad’s often feel left out from the delivery of baby, as they just stand beside their partner encouraging them. Dad’s can be involved in this golden hour by cutting the cord, leaning in to see baby and offering support to Mom.
If mom has needed a C-section or other medical interventions that have prevented her from having that skin to skin bonding immediately, dad to the rescue! Dad can complete bonding with skin to skin as much as mom does, it is actually encouraged. Baby needs to bond with someone, while most say it should be mom, it really should be someone who loves them, Mom or Dad. Even after mom has done immediate skin to skin, it is important for Dad to do this as well to help establish a bonding relationship!
Sources: babygaga.com, bellybelly.com, babycenter.com, childrens-hospital.lomalindahealth.org,