In the words of Dr Michel Odent, “The hour following birth is undoubtedly one of the most critical phases in the life of human beings.” There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it is during the golden hour after birth where the bonding hormones peak in both mother and baby to help them fall deeply in love. Secondly, the emotions that a baby experiences during this time are imprinted in the limbic brain and these emotions form the foundation of your baby’s emotional wellbeing.
There are steps you can take to give your baby the most beautiful golden hour possible.
Catch Your Own Baby
Consider catching your baby as your baby emerges from the birth canal. This is easiest to do when you are fully alert following a natural birth and are in an upright position. You may need some assistance from your support team as you do this. If you are unable to catch the baby for any reason, your partner can catch the baby instead. Bring your own soft organic towel from home to drape over your baby as opposed to using a hospital towel that has been washed in harsh, hospital grade chemicals.
Skin to Skin Contact
A baby is born with an innate expectation to be in contact with the outside of the mother’s body immediately following birth. Skin to skin contact provides a sense of love, connection and wellbeing for both mother and baby. Research from the Heart Math Institute shows that when a newborn and mother are within a 3 feet of each other, the baby’s heartbeat will synchronize with the mother’s heartbeat. However, when the baby is separated from the mother, the synchronicity is lost. The mother and baby should remain in skin to skin contact for at least the first golden hour, or until after the first successful breastfeed, whichever is longer. Keep your baby naked in skin to skin contact for at least the first hour. The mother’s breasts will increase in temperature to keep baby warm during this time and a soft towel or blanket from home can be draped over baby if it is cool.
Delayed Cord Clamping
At birth, 30% of your baby’s blood volume in still inside the placenta. For several minutes after birth, the placenta is still a part of your baby’s circulatory system. This blood will transfer from the placenta down the umbilical cord to the baby during the minutes following birth. This blood provides a fresh supply of oxygen to your baby until breathing is established. The blood transferred from the placenta also carries iron, Vitamin K, T-cells and stem cells. This is your baby’s first stem cell transplant.
The umbilical cord is the last connection between the mother and the baby. As soon as the cord is cut, the baby can be, and usually is, separated immediately from the mother for non-urgent, routine procedures such as weighing, vaccinations, Vitamin K and eye drops. The mother has a choice of when the cord is clamped and cut, but it must be agreed upon before birth. Many women are now choosing not to cut the cord until after the first golden hour has passed. By waiting at least until after the placenta is delivered naturally before cutting the cord, you ensure a period of at least 15 minutes (often longer) of undisturbed mother baby bonding.
If your baby has been born in a drug free birth, he or she will have the instinct to crawl from the stomach to the breast in the first hour of life and self-attach for the first breast feed. Allowing the baby to self-attach for the first breast feed is important because the latch will be instinctual. This instinctual latch will then be stored in your baby’s limbic memory which can lead to a smoother breastfeeding journey. Any amount of separation, even a few minutes, will often result in a baby that can no longer breastcrawl. This instinct is based on smell so it is important that neither mother nor baby have bathed before the first breastfeed. After the first breastfeed, it is an ideal time for the father to have his first cuddle.
When a baby is born in a hospital, the baby is automatically a patient of that hospital. There are many standard hospital procedures that routinely occur after a birth such as Vitamin K, eye drops, Hepatitis B vaccination and weighing. Hospital staff often perform these procedures without first seeking informed consent from the parents. Research these procedures before you have your baby so you can make confident, informed decisions. It is your responsibility as a parent to be aware of the truth. Before agreeing to any routine procedure for your baby, ask the following questions:
Benefits – What are the benefits?
Risks – What are the risks?
Alternatives – What are the alternatives?
Intuition – Does it feel right?
Now? Does it have to be done immediately?
As a parent, you can request that all non-urgent medical procedures wait until after the first golden hour. If a Paediatrician wants to look at your baby, you can keep your baby in your arms and only give informed consent for the procedures you feel comfortable about. You can always say the words, “I do not consent…”
Become empowered and take full responsibility for all of the choices you need to make to ensure that your baby has the best possible chance of having a gentle beginning. You are the expert when it comes to your baby. Trust your instincts. Become so informed that all of your decisions come from a place of love rather than from a place of fear.
Giving your baby a gentle start to life gives you and your baby the best chance of developing a harmonious bond and it will help you tap into the deep wisdom within you.
Your baby’s first golden hour cannot be bottled, kept or repeated. It is fleeting. It is sacred. Cherish it. Relish it. Honour it.
by Kate Tully, Author of Peaceful Birth, Peaceful Earth