The Golden Hour - The Crucial First Hour After Your Baby Is Born

The Golden Hour refers to the first hour following birth when a mother immediately holds her baby skin-to-skin without interruptions. Allowing this time assists with the stabilization of the newborn, decreases stress in both the mother and baby, promotes maternal-infant bonding, and improves breastfeeding outcomes.

Key takeaways:
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    The Golden Hour is the first hour following birth when the mother immediately holds her baby skin-to-skin without interruptions.
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    Skin-to-skin promotes maternal-child bonding, infant temperature and glucose stabilization, and improved breastfeeding outcomes.
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    Birth complications may delay the ability to perform skin-to-skin
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    Skin-to-skin is an option after C-sections but is not always guaranteed.
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    Add skin-to-skin holding to your birth plan and speak to your obstetrician/midwife about its benefits and any possible complications that may be expected at your delivery.

What happens after a baby is delivered?

As your baby takes its first breath, multiple physiological changes start to occur within its body. These changes are required for the transition to exist outside of the womb. Your baby has been safe and warm inside your uterus and is used to the calmness of a dark, quiet environment.

Delivery causes a lot of stress to a newborn baby and mother. Both of their bodies go through so much during the labor and delivery process. The Golden Hour is an important method to help minimize stress and promote a calm and healthy environment.

While the baby is experiencing a multitude of physiological, emotional, and hormonal changes, the mother is also experiencing her own changes. Maternal hormone changes occur immediately following delivery. Estrogen and progesterone levels start to decrease, which can contribute to emotional mood swings or feelings of postpartum blues.

The mother’s oxytocin levels increase, causing feelings of love and the need to protect the baby, and also triggers bonding with the baby. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract, which decreases blood loss and initiates the shrinking process of the organ.

The importance of skin-to-skin

During the Golden Hour, the baby is immediately placed onto the mother’s bare chest and abdomen and covered with blankets. The warmth of the mother’s skin will help the baby’s temperature stabilize. This closeness allows the baby to smell the mother and hear her familiar voice. The mother will likewise be able to smell her baby’s scent.

Skin-to-skin holding after delivery results in improved breastfeeding outcomes. Early suckling allows for the baby to begin practicing breastfeeding, and the stimulation of the nipples will activate the release of the mother’s hormone prolactin, which causes the production of breastmilk. Early suckling also helps to stabilize the baby’s blood glucose levels.

For mothers who do not plan to breastfeed, skin-to-skin is still extremely beneficial for both the mother and baby and should not be excluded.

Interruptions in the Golden Hour

Immediate skin-to-skin holding is not always a possibility. Certain situations will require the baby to be taken to the warmer for further assessment and interventions:

  • The baby experiences distress - a drop in heart rate or difficulty breathing
  • The mother experiences distress - a drop in heart rate, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, or hemorrhaging
  • Meconium (the baby’s stool) in the amniotic fluid causing the baby to struggle at birth
  • Preterm deliveries that are deemed too high-risk for immediate skin-to-skin holding
  • Cesarean sections - some situations may require the baby to go straight to the warmer, but oftentimes skin-to-skin holding is an option after a C-section

Advocating for the Golden Hour

Be sure to add skin-to-skin holding to your birth plan. Speak with your obstetrician or midwife to let them know of your wishes and to ask any questions or concerns that you may have. Some families choose to hire a birth doula to assist and help advocate for their wishes.

The Golden Hour refers to the crucial first moments you have with your newborn. This time should be encouraged and protected. The tasks that are required following delivery, like the newborn assessment, APGAR scores, vitamin K injection, and erythromycin eye ointment, can all be done while the baby is resting on the mother. Unless there are complications, skin-to-skin holding is preferred.