The Golden Hour offers benefits for both of you.
Skin to Skin in the Golden Hour
What Is the Golden Hour?
As you may remember from the last post, the term Golden Hour is used to refer to the time immediately after your baby is born when being in close contact with you is beneficial for both of you. Holding your baby skin to skin is one of the most important parts of this practice that allows a myriad of benefits to unfold.
Because your newborn has a sustained period of wakefulness in a quiet-alert state, this hour or so after birth presents the perfect opportunity for bonding, imprinting on each other, and learning about each other to occur. Although other shorter periods of wakefulness will present themselves later, the high levels of oxytocin present right after birth play an important role in establishing, and maintaining, this special bond between you and your baby. Oxytocin acts to lower stress levels for both of you, setting the perfect stage for short and long-term benefits to unfold. Oxytocin generates changes in brain chemistry that increase your desire for nurturing, and creates the desire for further contact for both you and your baby. Dads who have significant contact with their newborns also experience a rise in oxytocin that creates this desire for further contact too. All of this bonding activity is beneficial for your new family, and provides long-term benefits for your baby’s overall health and development.
Skin to skin contact makes it easier for your newborn to transition from the womb to the outside world. Research has shown that your baby will be able to regulate heart rate and rhythm more easily, will breathe more regularly and easily, and will be able to maintain a warm body temperature more easily when held skin to skin. These three things are the important measurements of your newborn’s stability and vitality. Scientists first made these observations about the power of skin-to-skin contact in the early 1980s when the practice of Kangaroo Care (mothers holding their premature babies skin to skin) in Bogotá, Colombia more than doubled the survival rate for these pre-term babies. We now know skin-to-skin holding is beneficial for all newborn babies.
Skin to skin contact also encourages successful breastfeeding, but especially during this first hour after birth. Your body chemistry during this Golden Hour promotes more successful letdown and latching, allowing breastfeeding to occur more easily. The same hormones that help you push your baby out also help to release the flow of milk for your baby (letdown). The readily available milk makes feeding more interesting for your newborn. The smell of the milk, the instant gratification, and the calm-alert state work together to help your newborn “figure out” a proper latch for sustained and successful feeding. And for your benefit mom, the combination of skin contact and breastfeeding releases hormones which cause the uterus to contract and to stop bleeding, both of which are desirable outcomes after delivery.
The Golden Hour with your newborn held skin to skin offers many wonderful benefits. My hope for you is that you both get to have the intimate and amazing experience of sharing this first hour of life together.
For you and yours,
D. Fravert, RN