We are used to hearing about the importance of that golden hour after being seriously injured in an car accident (or any other type of accident for that matter) when you should be treated promptly by competent paramedics on the scene before being taken to hospital.
But now we are learning about a similar golden hour after the birth of a baby
In the rush to clean, weigh and measure and generally check the health of a newborn, the baby may be missing out on some important bonding and other benefits with mother. As long as there is no emergency, such procedures could be delayed for an hour so that the newborn can benefit from being skin to skin with mother as well as taking his or her first breastfeed.
What should happen during that golden hour?
- It should be undisturbed.
- When babies are born, they should be immediately placed tummy down on their mother's stomach in a quiet environment with a blanket placed over both to keep them warm. This is to slow down the production of adrenaline hormone in the mother so as to not interfere with oxytocin and prolactin hormones being produced - essential for bonding and breastfeeding.
- The mother is still in labor at this time - for the delivery of the placenta and membranes and the contraction of the uterus.
- Swedish researchers first observed a phenomonen in newborns back in the 1980s. They realised that when babies (who have not been exposed to medications) were placed skin to skin with their mothers (and left undisturbed) they would instinctively crawl to their mother’s breast and attach themselves to the nipple. This is now known as the ‘breast crawl’ and was first observed by Swedish researchers in the 1980s.
- Another advantage is that babies who are left skin to skin with their mothers for the first hour immediately after birth are better able to regulate their temperature and respiration.
- An undisturbed first hour with skin to skin also reduces the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). Newborn babies can produce glucose from their body stores of energy until they are breastfeeding well and are more likely to do so when they remain skin to skin with their mothers.
- Leaving the umbilical cord intact, while it is still pulsating, after birth has been well documented in recent years. This method allows babies to receive oxygen via the placenta while adjusting to breathing through their lungs. At the same time, newborns will receive vital red blood cells and reduce the risk of iron deficiency anaemia.
- Prolonged skin to skin after birth promotes bonding while increasing the confidence in the mother to be able to meet her new baby's needs. Oxytocin receptors in a woman’s brain increase during pregnancy. When her baby is born she is therefore more responsive to this hormone that promotes maternal behaviour. Oxytocin is produced in large amounts when breastfeeding and holding babies close skin to skin.
- Mothers who enjoy this early skin to skin with their babies are likely to be more successful with breastfeeding while babies who are left to self attach usually have a better chance of proper tongue positioning when latching - making breastfeeding a more satisfactory process all round.
- Another advantage is to protect against the effects of separation. Babies are born with a mammal’s primal instinct to stay within the safe environment of their mother, where there is warmth, safety and nourishment. When babies are separated from their mother they will protest loudly, drawing her attention to their distress. This is partly linked to a survival instinct to avoid attracting predators but is also to preserve energy and heat.
- A newborn will come from a near-sterile environment in the uterus while being seeded by their mother’s bacteria, training the baby’s cells to understand what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria, and giving an early boost to their immune system. If babies are not born vaginally, do not benefit from that early skin to skin procedure nor are breastfed, their immune systems can start off with a disadvantage.
If you are pregnant, and in the planning stages for your baby's birth, you might like to give extra thought to this important golden hour after birth.
In earlier blog posts, we have covered other items of interest for mothers-to be to consider
In our maternity training tools post
, we talk about the premature clamping of the umbilical cord and how breastfeeding can save babies' lives. If you are worried about developing stretch marks
, we give you some prevention tips to use during pregnancy. We share some information on choline
which many mothers-to-be might not even be aware of. We present our ideas on helping to grow an earth child – that is a child who can enjoy a more natural lifestyle. Sharing with you some recent thoughts on fathers being present at the birth
of their children. And finally, you might find this information useful if you are undecided about whether or not to have vitamin K
administered to your newborn.