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THE BENEFITS OF UNDISTURBED GOLDEN HOUR AFTER BIRTH

As a birth doula, there's nothing quite like witnessing the magic of the golden hour—the sacred time following the birth of a newborn. It's a time when the world seems to stand still, the parents and their baby meeting for the first time and gazing into each other's eyes. That is when the bond and connection between the parents and their precious bundle of joy begins.



WHY IS THE GOLDEN HOUR SO IMPORTANT?


Your newborn emerges from a environment vastly distinct from our own—a watery world enveloped in gentle light, constant sounds, and consistent warmth. And all of a sudden, they are born and everything feels different. They feel the chill, the weight of gravity, and the absence of the comforting confines of the womb.

In this new and unfamiliar environment, your baby's sole source of familiarity and comfort is you. They recognise your scent, the rhythm of your heartbeat, the sound of your voice, and that of your partner.  And all of this calms and soothes baby, and helps to ease his transition from womb to the world. The mother’s body is this little mammals’ natural habitat and the place where he feels safe.


Therefore, the transition to the outside world should be as natural and as peaceful as possible. This means minimising interventions, allowing the family to bond without interruption, and ensuring a calm and peaceful atmosphere.


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE GOLDEN HOUR?


The golden hour can have a powerful impact on both baby and birthing parent. It is extremely beneficial to have your baby naked placed on your bare chest, on direct skin-to-skin contact after birth.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the love hormone and skin to skin immediately after birth causes oxytocin levels to reach peak range.This hormone contracts the uterus and reduces post-partum haemorrhage, triggers the ‘letdown’ reflex which releases the milk, and increases mothering behaviours, bonding, facial recognition, relaxation and attraction to the newborn.

It is an incredible hormone that is transmitted through touch, (another vote for skin to skin!) smell, eye contact, breastfeeding, (if that’s your choice) and is best released best when in a calm, quiet environment.


Based on decades of evidence, the WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (World Health Organization & United Nations Children’s Fund, 2009) recommend that all healthy mothers and babies, regardless of feeding preference and method of birth, have uninterrupted skin-to-skin care beginning immediately after birth for at least an hour, and until after the first feeding, for breastfeeding women.


Research shows that continuous skin-to-skin after birth helps:


  • the baby and birthing parent to recover from birth together and encourages hormone changes that help with bonding. Parents who have skin to skin contact after birth are more likely to feel confident and comfortable in meeting their babies’ needs in the future.


  • to birth the placenta more quickly and easily, reducing the risk of postpartum haemorrhage


  • to reduce stress for both mother and baby


  • the baby to adapt to life outside of the womb, as they are better able to regulate their body temperature and respiration. Their heart rate and blood pressure are kept more stable as well.


  • to encourage breastfeeding. Your baby is more likely to latch and breastfeed when they are placed on your skin. When babies who have not been exposed to medications are placed skin to skin with their mothers and left undisturbed, they will instinctually crawl to their mother’s breast and attach themselves to the nipple. This phenomenon is known as the ‘breast crawl’.

  • Skin to skin is also an important part of the process of exposing baby to the microbiome. When babies are born, they emerge from a near-sterile environment in the uterus and are seeded by their mother’s bacteria. This kickstarts their immune system to fight off infections and protects from disease in the future.


WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE GOLDEN HOUR?


Unless medically indicated, the umbilical cord can be left untouched for the first few minutes. This encourages babies to be put skin-to-skin on the mum's chest immediately after birth.

A warm blanket can then be placed over you both to keep you warm. This procedure often slows the production of adrenaline (a stress hormone) and increases the production of oxytocin and prolactin hormones in the mother, which enhances bonding and breastfeeding.

Upon birth, your baby will take their first breath outside the womb, filling their lungs with air. This initial breath often triggers crying, which helps clear fluid from their airways and establish regular breathing patterns.

Minutes after the birth, you may be surprised to see how alert a newborn really is. If the birth has been peaceful, they are usually very calm too. Babies usually have their eyes wide open, and look attentively at their parents’s faces. The energy from the physical effort of birth keep your baby alert and your baby will start quickly after to show sign of hunger. They will go through active and rest periods while moving towards the breast to find and attach to the nipple and breast.

After feeding, they usually enter a phase of sleep for a well deserved rest.


HOW TO HAVE AN UNDISTURBED GOLDEN HOUR?


The golden hour is a crucial and unique time, it belongs to you, your partner and your baby. This time should be as undisturbed as possible. When a baby is born, there is a flurry of tasks that seem to take precedence. Weighing the new baby, checking in on their general health, taking measurements, and cleaning them up are part of the procedures happening after birth.

During the Golden Hour, you can ask to keep interruptions, including exams and measurements, to a minimum, or to delay them to make the skin-to-skin contact as continuous as possible.


Before giving birth, let your doctors, nurses, or midwives know that you would like to experience an undisturbed golden hour so that they can plan accordingly.

Choose a doctor who supports the idea of having minimum interventions the first hour after birth and who understands you want some quiet time alone with your newborn baby.


Write a birth plan and don’t forget to discuss the after birth with your care provider, such as:


  • Delayed cord clamping

  • Immediate skin to skin

  • Routine procedures- maternal and newborn assessments to take place during skin-to-skin

  • Delay non urgent tasks- wiping, washing baby


SKIN TO SKIN AFTER A CESAREAN


Skin to skin after a cesarean is also possible, it may be worth having the conversation with your care providers and creating a birth plan that includes this as a possibility so you can be prepared for any eventuality. You may not be able to have a long skin to skin and undisturbed golden hour after a cesarean, but you can let your partner have your baby on its chest while you recover.


WHAT IF I AM NOT WITH MY BABY AFTER BIRTH?


If you are unable, or not comfortable to have your baby on skin to skin, your partner or a close relative can take your place, it will be a positive and bonding experience for them too. If for medical reasons, your baby has to be monitored and can’t be with you right after birth, you can still do skin to skin hours later, once you and your baby are finally meeting. Fortunately, the benefits of skin-to-skin contact don’t end once the initial Golden Hour period finishes.



The hour(s) after giving birth marks the beginning of a new chapter in a woman's journey—one filled with a myriad of physical, emotional, and practical adjustments.

Don't worry  if you don't immediately feel a connection with your baby. Enduring a challenging or long labor can sometimes impede feelings of attachment toward your baby. Remember to go easy on yourself – loving and bonding with your baby is a gradual process that may take some time to develop.


As a doula, I'm here to provide comprehensive insights into this pivotal period, offering guidance and support to ensure a smoother transition into parenthood.


With love,


Claire

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