The Golden Hour and Skin-to-Skin
There are only a few moments in life that are as uniquely precious as the moment you first meet your baby. The first hour after a baby’s birth, or the Golden Hour as it is so rightly called, is one of the most precious times you can spend with your new love. Skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby during this time is a special bonding experience – not to mention beneficial to baby’s health and wellbeing. Whether you choose to give birth naturally or via C-section, immediate skin-to-skin contact – where baby is placed tummy down on Mommy’s chest after birth – is a wonderful way to start the relationship that will change your life forever. At this time, all you and your baby really need is calm, quiet and warmth. The birthing process is stressful and gruelling for both you and your little one! This time together allows you both to relax together and, of course, gives baby the time to adjust to the outside world. But why is skin-to-skin so beneficial? What actually happens during this time?
In this precious Golden Hour, your little one will have the opportunity to get to know the smell of the most important person in his or her world – Mom. Skin-to-skin provides your baby with an opportunity to instinctively nuzzle towards your breast and latch independently, for the first time. Although not all babies will latch without a little guidance, it is important to allow them the chance to try. Babies who are left to self-attach have a better chance of proper tongue positioning, which often means more successful and prolonged breastfeeding. This means a more rewarding experience for you both, and one which adds to those first precious bonding moments.
Of course, the bonding side of skin-to-skin contact is much bigger than that. Mom and baby tend to bond faster and more deeply in that first Golden Hour than if baby had been whisked away for weighing and measuring first. It also makes the transition from womb to the outside world easier on your baby, as early contact with Mom can soften the shock of birth.
It doesn’t stop at bonding, though. There are plenty of health benefits to early skin-to-skin contact. Babies who start their lives this way are also better able to moderate their own temperature and breathing, and better maintain their own glucose levels. It can even help boost your baby’s immunity!
Making sure that you get the Golden Hour with your baby is as simple as asking your gynaecologist, midwife or the institution where you are giving birth. In fact, most hospitals I have worked with are more than happy to allow it. Don’t be afraid to make the request – remember, it’s your birth, and your baby. You can choose how you want to spend those first hours with your little one.
If your birthing team forgets, and you end up walking the standard path, do not feel as if all is lost! When your little one is returned to you, you can choose to undress your baby and cuddle for a while. The good news is, there will be many opportunities for skin-to-skin contact within the first few month and endless opportunities for bonding throughout your child’s life. Try to make the best of that first hour, but if life gets in the way, do not fret! Remember that opportunities to bond will always be there. Skin-to-skin is simply one – very effective – way of getting your baby’s life off to a good start.
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Why was I so desperate to have a natural birth?
Yes, it would have been a most empowering experience for me and yes my next one will be a VBAC, but was it really that important in the bigger scheme of things? At the end of it all we got what we set out to achieve – a human being that we could guide and mould and set free into the world for her to make her own impact. Maybe that trauma she and I both endured in getting her Earthside happened exactly how it was supposed to. That’s birth and even more so parenting – you set off on a course with big plans and that’s great, but there has to be flexibility and acceptance in changing course depending on whatever life (or your kid) throws at you.
After a minute or so we heard your first loud cry. It was glorious and we could finally breathe. Sr Lotter brought you to us and our hearts melted, my boy. You were beautiful. We checked for 10 fingers and 10 toes and we couldn’t stop looking at you. The happiest moment of our lives. You were born at 11:33 weighing 3.49kg and measuring 53cm.