The first few minutes after birth are a magical time for bonding with baby.
After nine months of waiting, a new mother gets her first chance to hold her baby in her arms, counting tiny fingers and toes, and gazing into the eyes of her newborn.
Research has shown that what happens during the first 60 minutes of a baby’s life can maximize the bonding between mother and child. That uninterrupted contact between mother and baby during the “golden hour” is critical to the child’s growth and development.
A new view
In the past, bonding with baby often took a back seat to medical procedures. New moms watched their babies being handed to a nurse for examination, cleaning and other details. After all the waiting, the new parents would finally get to hold their baby.
Health care providers now know that immediate skin-to-skin contact is the best way for a newborn and mother to bond. The sooner after birth this can happen, the better experience the family will have.
In fact, the American Association of Pediatricians now recommends the following guidelines:
- Healthy newborns should be placed in “skin-to-skin” contact with the mother until the first round of breastfeeding is established.
- The medical caregivers can conduct the first physical assessment of the baby while it is on the mother’s chest.
- Conventional procedures such as weighing, measuring, bathing, injections or blood test should wait until after the first feeding.
- Baby and mother should remain together throughout the recovery period.
Many hospitals and birthing centers now encourage parents to wait at least an hour before introducing baby to family and friends. Instead, they encourage mother and baby to stay together and, if desired, focus on giving the newborn a chance to breastfeed.
Finding a way to bond
Even in cases where medical emergencies may change a family’s birth plan, it is possible to take advantage of bonding time in the first few minutes. If a baby needs medical attention or extra stimulation to start breathing, the child can be moved from the exam table to the mother’s chest as soon as the baby is stabilized.
Women who have a planned or unplanned cesarean section may need to wait a few moments to be able to hold the baby. In most cases, after a quick assessment, nurses can move the baby to the mother’s chest. The baby can stay at her mother’s side until she is settled into the recovery room and ready to nurse.
Benefits for mom and baby
During labor and the minutes and hours afterward, the mother’s body experiences several amazing changes. Giving birth generates changes in a woman’s brain chemistry that increases desire to nurture.
Skin-to-skin contact and the baby’s suckling at the breast release hormones. This helps the mother connect to her child and causes the uterus to contract and stop bleeding. Research has shown that nursing within the first hour of life improves infant survival rates. Mothers who do this are also more likely to breastfeed longer.
Most hospitals and birthing centers encourage breastfeeding for the benefits to both mom and baby. Babies who breastfeed have lower rates of ear infections, asthma, diabetes, childhood leukemia and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Mothers who nurse their babies have lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and diabetes.
Expectant moms should talk with family members and medical staff about their plans for the minutes after birth. Every mother and baby should have a chance to experience their “golden hour.”