What Is The Golden Hour After Birth?
The golden hour after birth is a way of referring to the precious time immediately after birth where incredulous, important and some long-awaited transitions are starting, continuing and completing.
Consider life inside the womb, warm and soft in feel, dark and soothing, comforting and very familiar after the time spent safely tucked away.
Depending on the birth environment, life outside the womb, after birth, is potentially very harsh in comparison and intensely different. SKIN TO SKIN, is the sturdy foundation of the golden hour after birth, it is a wonderful form of compensation and an investment, gently soothing baby and mother, and quietly nurturing the mother-infant dyad.
So the golden hour – skin to skin after birth, is something that can be done to ease babies transitions to the outside world, it therefore makes sense for it to be done as soon as possible after birth, and as naturally and peacefully as possible*.
When Is Best To Have The Golden Hour After Birth?
Achieving a golden hour as soon as possible after birth not only protects the baby but it also protects the mother, her birth preferences or choices such as mother infant bonding, delayed / optimal cord clamping, breastfeeding to name a few.
Who Might Benefit From The Golden Hour After Birth?
The benefits of the golden hour after birth are many, and that applies to both baby and mother. Labour and birth are orchestrated by hormones, adrenaline and cortisol are amongst these and when it comes to peaceful, this pair are not sought after. Oxytocin is the main hormone associated with the golden hour after birth and it has the added benefit of promoting maternal behaviour when uninterrupted.
Why The Golden Hour After Birth?
During the golden hour after birth we want to see a drive in the parasympathetic nervous systems of mother and baby. The parasympathetic nervous system is the network of nerves that encourages your mind and body to rest, leaving you feeling calm, settled and secure and allowing life sustaining body systems such as digestion to work effectively. This drive will allow the baby to better maintain a safe and comfortable body temperature but also heart rate, breathing rate and in turn blood sugars.
How Is It Best To Achieve The Golden Hour After Birth?
Skin to skin is by far the best way to promote and ensure these favourable conditions for a newborn baby. Skin to skin is best achieved by placing the baby on their front, completely naked, with the maximum amount of their skin against their mother’s skin. Placing babies head up on mum’s chest, in between her breasts has the added benefit of the baby being able to hear mother’s heartbeat and feel her warmth at the same time, in order to closely emulate the womb environment.
So How Does The Mother In Particular Benefit From The Golden Hour After Birth?
The mother can also benefit from the peaceful feel of skin to skin during the golden hour after birth, and the impacts it can have on the immediate environment. Secure and calm surroundings encourage natural physiology and important protective hormonal changes to occur in the mother setting her up well for her early postpartum transition.
As mentioned previously skin to skin encourages delayed optimum cord clamping, ensuring important components such as stem cells, iron and immunoglobulins, in the blood remaining in the placenta after birth, are transferred to the baby.
Skin to skin also protects breastfeeding, it assists with its initiation and builds a sturdy foundation for connected/responsive feeding and the recognition of feeding cues. Breastfeeding that was initiated early after birth tends to result in longer breastfeeding duration which brings with it even more benefits. In addition, if one was ever to experience or witness a beautiful ‘breast crawl’, (when a baby crawls to their mother’s breast themself and latches all by themself), a most likely extended golden hour after birth would be the time for this.
Natural hormonal changes, bonding, sniffing baby’s head, baby’s limbs naturally massaging their mother’s womb through the abdomen/from the outside, nuzzling or suckling at the breast, all are (if wished for) likely to occur during an extended and uninterrupted golden hour after birth and all assist in the natural expulsion of the placenta and reduce the risk of excessive bleeding after birth.
*It is important to mention that for some babies it may be recommended that they receive additional support or care, that in certain birth environments, may be difficult for the birth attendant to achieve with baby skin to skin.
Is The Golden Hour After Birth Enough?
An extended and uninterrupted golden hour after birth is absolutely something to think about during pregnancy and when considering your after birth preferences or ‘My ABC’s – beyond’.
To summarise, if skin to skin after birth is something that you wish to do and you value its importance to you and your baby, then do consider unlimited GOLDEN TIME, it does not need to be any particular length of time, just the amount that you BOTH need to get the best and most from it. See it as a fantastic way of protecting your postnatal period in the same way that you protected your birth and you would protect anything of value to you.
I wish to draw your attention to a great quote by Sarah Buckley (Author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering) who summarises the power of the GOLDEN TIME after birth perfectly…
‘Contact with you activates your baby’s parasympathetic nervous system – that switches off stress; enhances digestion, healing and growth, and imprints calm and connection’.
– Sarah Buckley
Your Golden Hour Inspiration
- Why not take 4, 5 or more golden hours after birth?
- Some uninterrupted and unlimited GOLDEN TIME after birth…
- How do you wish your GOLDEN TIME to happen?
- Did you do skin to skin?
- Was your GOLDEN TIME magical?
- How long was your GOLDEN TIME?
- What things did you do to protect your GOLDEN TIME?
- Did you start your breastfeeding journey with some golden time after birth?
Lastly, I wish to leave you with this very moving video by Waterwipes UK, which highlights some of the wonderful benefits of skin to skin after birth that I have covered in this blog post.
For more info on the golden hour after birth, why not visit any of the following website pages:
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The Nurture Mama Ltd is a fully insured (through ZEST Health Innovation Consultancy Ltd), independent midwife service that offers Antenatal, Postnatal, Combined and Complete packages. Caring, supporting and empowering people throughout pregnancy, labour, childbirth and after birth – giving families complete continuity of care.