Golden Hour

Alright, so I'm still terrible with the blog posts. There have been a lot of babies lately so who can blame me for being distracted with all that cute, smooshy goodness! To apologize, I've written a good (& maybe kind of long) one for you.

It's nearly standard practice now to allow for 1 hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact after baby is born, provided mom & baby are healthy. Yay! Though I see a lot of clients emphasizing their desire for this "Golden Hour" with their newborn, many aren't sure why this first hour is so important. Why is the practice to allow one hour? Why not 30 minutes? Why not 2 hours? Or (most mamas want to know) why not forever?

Sorry, mamas, we do have to interrupt babies at some point (pesky diaper changing & such), so we can't leave them on your chest forever. But the reason why we reference that first hour has to do with newborn breastfeeding behavior & is based in science.

In 2010, Widström & colleagues conducted a study of 28 newborns, finding that your newest bundle is doing some really important stuff in the first 70 minutes of life. In 2014, Laura Sanders simplified their findings for an article in ScienceNews. This article is great because it boils down the original findings to a nice concise list. I must note that this timeline is approximate - as we all know, each baby has his own agenda! Since I often send this article to clients, let's break it down, shall we?

Minute 0: Baby cries. This doesn't surprise many people. And, mamas and partners, we know you don't like hearing that little angel cry. But it's a GOOD sound. It helps to clear the lungs & airway of any mucus that may be in there after birth. This is one reason why you may see a nurse come over to rub your baby's back or reposition him if he's making more of a wheezing sound. A strong cry is a sign of healthy lungs; babies that aren't doing this cry on their own sometimes need additional attention. In addition, that first cry inflates the lungs for the first time & kick-starts baby's circulation (yay oxygen!). So don't worry about that cry, mamas, that is some magic stuff! 

Minute 2: Baby relaxes. That wailing is some hard work!

Minute 2.5: Open eyes for the first time. Hi guys!

Minute 8: Baby is active, rooting, looking at mom. This is the good stuff, right mamas? Baby's eyes are open for longer periods of time, he's looking right at you, & making the most delicious yummy noises. If you weren't totally in love yet, this is where it hits you. Although your baby is showing some rooting behavior, he's not necessarily ready to latch just yet. He just went through a killer journey & may need some more time to get ready. In fact...

Minute 18: Yup. Baby is resting again. All that adorable activity is enough to wear a baby out!

Minute 36: On the move! If you're doing a breast crawl this is when baby starts to make his way up to your breasts. Time to scoot! If baby is on your chest, this is when you may start to see some head bobbing in the direction of one breast or the other. Baby is telling you he's getting close to being ready to latch. 

Minute 62: Baby nurses. Now, there's nearly 30 minutes of seemingly unaccounted for time here. But that 30 minutes is jam-packed with activity. If you're doing the breast crawl, baby is spending a good chunk of that time scooting. Regardless of what you're choosing to do, baby is not going to latch right away. There will be some time where baby will nuzzle & lick your breast around the nipple. This is how baby gets familiarized before they latch. He is using his senses of smell, taste, & touch to get ready. This is when some mamas get a little anxious that their baby isn't going to catch on, but stay calm. You got this, mama! You can help him when he does try to latch, but remember that it may take some time. After all, 62 minutes after birth is the average amount of time until latch in this study! When it does happen, baby is getting some colostrum which is loaded with immune molecules & protein AND the latch helps your milk come in. Not to mention that sweet oxytocin rush helps your uterus to contract down to pre-pregnancy size.  Bonus: this has the nice side effect of helping to stop any bleeding. Pretty great, huh?

Minute 70. Yeah. Baby is asleep again. I mean, did you SEE all that work he just did? Pretty amazing! He deserves a nap! Come to think of it, you probably need one, too.

So there it is, in all it's glory: the Golden Hour. Take it in, mamas (& partners, too!) because it's pretty frickin' awesome.