The Magical Golden Hour – What is it and Why is it so Important?

As your baby is born, they are suddenly in a completely different world to their cosy, secure and warm womb.  They have to breathe for themselves, they feel hunger and thirst, they cry, they feel cold/warm.  All the things that are regulated for them in the womb, become things they are now having to deal with for themselves.  Here Daisy teacher Chloe explains how having an undisturbed ‘golden hour’ after birth can help this transition.

Meeting Your Newborn

To try to describe what that moment feels like, when you hold your baby for the first time, is nigh on impossible.  As you breathe in your newborn: their smell, how they look, are they the image of you or their father?  Most babies look like their fathers by the way, some kind of survival mechanism to ensure their fathers don’t abandon them – quite amazing really, no?  How it feels to have your baby finally in your arms, taking in every part of them as you hold them close.  As the saying goes ‘not only is a baby born, so is a mother’.  Why rush this transition from womb to world?  Why not savour every single second?  You won’t get that time back.  It is magical.  Undisturbed time together can mean mum’s birth bubble is protected for just a little while longer and can give mum and baby those precious first moments together where mum can just focus on her new baby.

Cultural Norms

Our culture generally removes baby from the mother as soon as they are born.  Clamping and cutting the cord, carrying out the various newborn checks and ‘cleaning them off’.  This thankfully, is slowly changing: leaving mum and baby together, undisturbed is becoming more common – which is amazing!  The checks that need to be done, as well as weighing and measuring can all be done after this golden hour together – they don’t need to be immediate.  Michael Odent suggests that ‘The hour following birth is undoubtedly one of the most critical phases in the life of human beings’.  If this is the case, here is why having an undisturbed hour with your newborn baby can be extremely beneficial for you both, and could be something worth adding to your birth plan.

The Benefits of the ‘Golden Hour’

Once baby is born, they can be placed skin-to-skin on their mother and both be covered in a blanket to keep them warm and relaxed.  Having baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth can promote bonding between baby and caregiver.  The production of oxytocin, or the love hormone as it can be affectionately referred to, is promoted.  Oxytocin in turn helps promote maternal behaviour and can also encourage breastfeeding.  An undisturbed hour can help support optimal cord clamping.  As mum and baby enjoy their first moments together, the cord can be left intact so baby gets all the wonderful goodness remaining in the placenta.  Being skin-to-skin also helps baby regulate their temperature and breathing: remember they are breathing for the first time for themselves and being in the protective arms of their mother, skin to skin, will aid this process.  Do not beat yourself up or worry if you do not feel a rush of love straight away for your baby.  Birth can be quite an overwhelming experience and those feelings of intense love can take a while to build.  You and your baby will still enjoy all the benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth.

Golden Hour After C-Section?

What about if you have a caesarean section?  Is this magical hour still possible?  Depending on the circumstances this may or may not be possible straight away.  If it is a planned C-section, discuss your wishes with your midwife and consultant to see how they might be able to accommodate this for you.  The ‘gentle’ caesarean is becoming more widely available. If you end up having an emergency caesarean, having spoken to your midwife and the care team beforehand will help make them more aware of your wishes, and what they can do in this situation to help you.  If it turns out that it isn’t possible immediately after birth, your partner can have skin to skin until you are able to.  Skin to skin is beneficial at any time though, so don’t worry if it has to be delayed for any reason.

If your baby has to go to the special care unit, please do not think you and your baby are missing out on all the benefits listed above.  ‘Kangaroo Care’ for premature infants or those with high medical needs is being researched and offered more and more.  This is a process of baby being held skin to skin with their mother as much as possible each day.  By being aware of what it is, and what it means, this will give you the confidence and knowledge to make sure you and your baby are accommodated in every way possible.  By talking these options through with your neonatal and birth team, you can enhance your bonding experience as mother and baby.

Love Daisy x