By Stephanie Larson, Dancing For Birth™ Founder
The first hour following birth is a vital time for mother and baby to be together and undisturbed, which evidence shows promotes their health and wellbeing. Non-separation of mom and baby is so critical during this period that we should think of them as one entity called MotherBaby[i]. Hormones from the birth such as oxytocin, ‘the love hormone’, peak immediately after the birth, making this an essential time for mother-baby attachment, bonding, and instinctive maternal-newborn behaviors such as smelling, tasting, eye-to-eye gazing and breastfeeding. To accomplish this, MotherBaby needs to be undisturbed. Think of this as the ‘golden hour’.
Best practice is to allow baby, unwashed and unclothed (with no cap) to snuggle on mother’s belly or chest for immediate and extended skin-to-skin contact. With a little support and patience from mom, baby has the primal capability of instinctively moving to the breast and latching on to the nipple to begin breastfeeding. It is incredible to witness this. MotherBaby should both be covered with a warm blanket, and the room should be quiet, warm, dim and peaceful. Imagine how powerful this hour is, as baby adjusts to life outside the womb, which is the only home baby has ever known. Familiar things such as mother’s voice and scent help baby feel safe and secure. Baby’s presence in her arms is a vital part of the birth experience for mom. This practice of MotherBaby non-separation reduces maternal and newborn stress, and can be implemented after vaginal and cesarean birth.
Early initiation of breastfeeding increases the success and the overall duration of the breastfeeding relationship. Immediately following the birth, breastfeeding plays an important role in facilitating the birth of the placenta, minimizing bleeding and preventing hemorrhage. It causes oxytocin release which to contract the uterus, expel the placenta and shrink the uterus back down to size. Contrary to popular belief, the umbilical cord does not need to be cut right away, and should not be clamped or cut before it has stopped pulsing and baby’s breathing is well established. Most routine newborn procedures can be postponed, or facilitated while mom and baby are together. Resuscitation, if needed, should be performed while the cord is still attached so that oxygen is still flowing to the baby. Baby’s other parent (when invited by mom) is included in the birth and the golden hour and can do much to ensure that the family’s wishes for non-separation are respected. If the parent has been present throughout pregnancy, baby will also recognize this voice. After breastfeeding has been established and when mom is ready, baby’s other parent also benefits from skin-to-skin bonding, which helps protective parental instincts to develop. This can be a very magical time for the new family.
Visitors can join the celebration after this “golden hour” once the family is ready, which may be right away or days later. Visitors should take a ‘look but don’t touch’ approach when baby is brand new. This helps to ensure that baby’s gut flora gets off to a good start by becoming populated with the familiar beneficial bacteria of the mother only. Visitors to the home should not expect to be hosted by the new family, instead they should help in practical ways, like bringing food and volunteering to do chores. One practical guideline is no more than one visitor (or family) per day, staying not longer than one hour. Skin-to-skin contact and non-separation continue to be vital as often as possible in the days, weeks and months following the birth. MotherBaby and the immediate family are learning each other’s cues and bonding and this requires plenty of undisturbed time. These goals for optimal MotherBaby wellbeing are best accomplished by explaining them to the birth team, family, and friends ahead of the birth and asking for cooperation. A trusted friend, family member or doula can be designated to help coordinate visits and remind visitors of the etiquette.
Comment below and share a highlight about the “golden hour” from your experience!