Birth | The Magical Hour: The importance of uninterrupted contact during the first hour after birth

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The Magical / Golden / Sacred Hour

The golden hour is not new to the world of birthing, it is defined as the baby being skin-to-skin on the mother for an uninterrupted hour immediately following birth.

In reality, it is so much more than this.

As your baby is born (whether vaginal birth or caesarean birth) they are suddenly exposed to a whole new world. Their safety and security that they have come to know and love is suddenly a thing of the past and this can be quite an overwhelming experience.

What follows next is the rush to clean, weigh and measure and generally check the health of a newborn. While this is all very important we sometimes forget that there is a Mother and a baby that are missing out on some important bonding and other benefits.

I always advise birth Mothers that as long as there is no emergency, such procedures could be delayed. Alternatively the discussion could be held with your medical professional prior to birth (included in your birth day “wish list”) and advise that tests be performed while baby is on your chest or delayed.

When a baby is in skin to skin contact after birth there are nine observable newborn stages, happening in a specific order, that are innate and instinctive for the baby. Within each of these stages, there are a variety of actions the baby may demonstrate.

The 9 Stages of the golden hour 

Stage 1: The Birth Cry

The first stage is the birth cry.

This distinctive cry occurs immediately after birth as the baby’s lungs expand.

Stage 2: Relaxation

The second stage is the relaxation stage.

During the relaxation stage, the newborn exhibits no mouth movements and the hands are relaxed. This stage usually begins when the birth cry has stopped. The baby is skin to skin with the mother and covered with blanket (with or without a nappy).

Stage 3: Awakening

The third stage is the awakening stage.

During this stage the newborn exhibits small thrusts of movement in the head and shoulders. This stage usually begins about 3 minutes after birth. The newborn in the awakening stage may exhibit head movements, open their eyes, show some mouth activity and might move their shoulders.

Stage 4: Activity

The fourth stage is the activity stage.

The newborn begins to make increased mouthing and sucking movements as the rooting reflex becomes more obvious. This stage usually begins about 8 minutes after birth.

Stage 5: Rest

Your baby may have periods of resting between periods of activity throughout the first hour or so after birth.

Stage 6: Crawling

The sixth stage is the crawling stage, using sliding, pushing and leaping movements.

The baby approaches the breast during this stage with short periods of action that result in reaching the breast and nipple. This stage usually begins about 35 minutes after birth.

Stage 7: Familiarization

The seventh stage is called familiarization.

During this stage, the newborn becomes acquainted with the mother by licking the nipple and touching and massaging her breast. This stage usually begins around 45 minutes after birth and could last for 20 minutes or more.

Stage 8: Suckling

The eighth stage is suckling.

At this stage the newborn takes the nipple, self attaches and suckles. This early experience of learning to breastfeed usually begins about an hour after birth.

Stage 9: Sleep

The final stage is sleep. The baby and sometimes the mother fall into a restful sleep. Babies usually fall asleep about 1½ to 2 hours after birth.

All these stages are dependent on the type of birth, the use of anesthesia during labour and birth and when tests are performed

Benefits for your baby

  • Accelerates brain development
  • Improvement to heart and lung function
  • Stabilization of body temperature
  • Regulation of blood sugar
  • Transfer of good bacteria
  • Initiation of breastfeeding
  • Reduces crying keeping baby calm
  • Allows Mother and baby bonding
  • Babies can hear their mother’s heartbeat which is something they’ve come to know oh so well over the last few months
  • Could improve quality of sleep
  • Promotes psychological well-being (Oxytocin = Natural feel good hormone)

Not all Moms are able to do skin to skin immediately following birth. This is where your birth partner steps in.

Ideally we would like all Mothers to have the opportunity to have skin to skin contact with their baby, in some cases this is not possible. What happens on the first day doesn’t dictate your parental  success, but it can and does play a role in your baby’s development as well as bonding.

My skin to skin experiences 

With my first-born I wasn’t able to do skin to skin, more traumatizing after a long labour ending in a caesarean I wasn’t able to hold him till I was back in my room a whole while later.

With my second born I was able to hold him briefly for a few seconds before they whisked him off for tests. But this time I was prepared. My darling husband then took him immediately after and did skin to skin till I was out and able.

Planning for baby number 3’s birth

I am definitely going to have this discussion with my Doctor at my next appointment, here’s hoping she is accommodating of my decision. I’m yet to discuss the “gentle Caesarian birth” with her – wish me luck.

Be sure to check out my last pregnancy related post if you’ve missed it.

As always share your thoughts on the sacred hour, were you able to do skin to skin with your babies immediately following birth? I’d love to hear.

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