The golden hours are life changing. Literally.
But what are the golden hours?
The golden hours are the first few magical hours after a new human being is born into this world. Not only is a new baby born, but also a new mother & family, irrespective of how many other children you have. It really is a magical time. But, there are many things that you can do to try and help promote a lifelong positive transition.
What is happening in the golden hour?
The baby is transitioning from uterine life to life outside of the womb. There are many things happening for your little one. He/she is transitioning to breathing for themselves, regulating their temperature, heart changes, stabilising blood sugar levels, learning the new skill of breastfeeding and so many more transformations.
The mother is also changing rapidly post birth. Her hormones are changing and adapting. Physically her uterus is contracting, her breasts being alerted to the fact her baby is born from a change in hormones once the placenta is birthed, and many many changes happening on an emotional level.
Why is the golden hour so important?
There has been many studies to suggest that babies should not be separated from their mother for the first hour at least (preferably 2-3 hours). The baby remains skin to skin this whole time allowing the adaptions to the outside world to take place. It is important for babies to be skin to skin as this is the best place to help with thermoregulation, breathing stabilisation and to start to create the mother-infant bond. There is also strong evidence to suggest that babies that spend the first hour at least uninterrupted, and skin to skin, have more successful long term breastfeeding journeys.
What can you do to help?
There are so many little things that you can do. Some you will innately do without thinking and others you (or hopefully your support person) may need to advocate to create this time for yourselves.
Ideally the baby would be birthed and placed up onto your stomach/chest area on your skin leaving the cord attached to both baby and placenta (delayed cord clamping). Sometimes in caesareans this can be problematic. Have a chat to your practitioner/hospital and see if you can help to birth your baby in a maternal assisted caesarean birth, where you bring your baby up out of the abdomen and onto your chest straight away.
If this is not available to you (ie. an emergency where this doesn’t allow for time to get prepped), then its important for your baby to be skin to skin with you asap (should only be a minute or so). You can have your baby skin to skin in theatre and in recovery- you may need to advocate for this yourself depending on your hospital. Delayed cord clamping should also be an option in caesarean birth. If the mother is unwell and can not have skin to skin straight away, it is important for the birth support person to become skin to skin with the baby asap.
Occasionally babies do need to be seen by a paediatrician after birth. There is some evidence and studies suggesting that babies are better to be left on mum and have full delayed cord clamping, even if resuscitation is required. In practice this is not very widely upheld as it can be quite tricky for the care providers. Again, another conversation to have with your healthcare provider.
Once your baby is skin to skin, allowing your baby to just be there, he/she will start to explore using their touch, smell and eye senses. This is a beautiful time to just be still. Try to keep the room quiet, dimly lit, warm, and smells such as essential oils to be turned off. Please don’t be tempted to wipe down your baby. All of the bacteria that they have gained from the birth canal and the mothers chest is helping their immune system to reach its full potential.
Within the first hour, babies usually will have ‘crawled’ to find the breast & will be wanting, or will have latched onto the breast themselves. Yes, babies can do a walk/crawl when they are born which is an instinctive reflex to help them find the breast. They lose this reflex once breastfeeding is established around 8 weeks of age! Pretty amazing hey?! You can look up ‘breast crawl’ on you tube to see what I am talking about.
Sometimes in birth, your care provider might want to rush things along. For example they may want you to get up for a shower, or to weigh the baby, do the babies immunisations, check the baby and many other things. Please know that you have every right to ask that those things wait a while. There is no rush.
Once mum and babe have had their time together, hopefully hours, it is important for the babies dad (or significant other) to also have skin to skin. We know that 30 minutes of uninterrupted skin to skin in the first 24 hours of life rewires a fathers brain to become more attuned to their new baby. Wow!
This first few hours is also such a special time to bond together the 3 of you. So enjoy the calm, the oxytocin and the gentle transitions from womb to room for you all.
Providing Evidence-Based Care During the Golden Hour- https://nwhjournal.org/article/S1751-4851(17)30281-7/pdf
Healthy Birth Practice #6: Keep Mother and Baby Together— It’s Best for Mother, Baby, and Breastfeeding- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4235060/
Promoting, supporting and protecting normal birth- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1948084/