Benefits of Skin-to-Skin: The Golden Hour Has Real Health Benefits For You And Your Baby

What is the “golden hour?”

After the long months of waiting and the hard work of birthing, your baby has finally arrived! Congrats, Mama! You get to look into your little one’s eyes, count her fingers and toes, and be amazed at the perfect little person you created. What happens during the next hour is important. Research has shown that skin-to-skin contact during the first 60 minutes after birth can have health benefits for both parents and babies. This means that your baby will immediately be placed on your bare chest tummy down and covered with a warm blanket. It’s called the “golden hour,” a period of uninterrupted time for you and your baby to snuggle and bond. There is a growing body of medical evidence behind this practice, which is recommended by many organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization. So, what’s all the fuss about?

Here are some “golden hour” benefits:

Body System Regulation

Your newborn is not as good at staying warm as the rest of us. Lying on mama’s body helps her regulate her body temperature, heart rate, and breathing. It also helps your baby to produce glucose from her body until she begins breastfeeding, reducing the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels).

Breastfeeding

Skin-to-skin contact has been shown to promote breastfeeding success. Because: hormones. It slows down all the adrenaline from labor and helps your body to produce oxytocin and prolactin, essential for bonding and breastfeeding. It can even help increase your milk supply. 

While lying on your chest, your baby might move instinctively toward your nipple and latch on. They really do this! The baby’s suckling at your breast also releases hormones, which causes your uterus to contract down and stop bleeding.

Bonding

Your baby is excited to meet you too! While being held, your newborn may often gaze into your face, recognizing your smell, the sound of your voice, and the touch of your skin. The “golden hour” is a time to get to know each other and begin forming the attachment that underlies your baby’s sense of security. It can also increase your sense of closeness and confidence in caring for your baby.

Bacteria & Immunity

You may have heard that giving birth vaginally can help your baby’s gut by providing good bacteria from your body. This is widely believed to help boost the immune system. Well, whether you had a vaginal birth or not, skin-to-skin contact is another way to achieve this. Your baby can pick up good bacteria from your skin and from your breast while nursing. 

Making sure your “golden hour” happens

While certain “Baby Friendly” hospitals and others may have policies that support the “golden hour,” not all maternity care centers or providers do. Your care team may want to start post birth procedures like cleaning, weighing, and measuring your baby, or any injections. They. Can. Wait. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all physical assessments of your baby should be done while they are on your chest and that no procedures should take place until after the “golden hour” and the first feeding. Make sure that your birth plan includes what you would like to happen during the “golden hour.” 

What if you have a C-section?

Unless there is a medical emergency, having a C-section shouldn’t prevent you from having skin-to-skin contact. Your baby can be placed on your chest in the operating room right after birth. If you are planning a C-section, make sure to talk to your obstetrician about the “golden hour” and include it on your birth plan.  

What if you and your baby have to separate?

As we know, birth is unpredictable, and there could be a medical situation that prevents you from being with your baby right away. If so, try not to worry. Nothing crucial has been lost. It is also beneficial for your partner or a family member to hold your baby on their skin. This will still help to keep your baby warm and calm her until you can be together again.  

Advocate

No matter what type of birth you have, advocate for your “golden hour,” experience. It can be a magical time and has significant health benefits. Your doula can help you include it on your birth plan and make sure it is respected in the birth room. 

Interested in more resources, education or support? Visit us at MeetMae.com to create a profile, connect with a culturally competent birth expert and learn more about things this and other important topics that can truly impact your journey in a positive way. We can also help you create a birth plan.

We are here to support you every step of the way.