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Making the Most of That First Hour With Your Newborn

April 4, 2017 at midnight

There is nothing quite as extraordinary—or exhilarating—as those first few minutes you spend with your newborn. Months of preparation and the inevitable emotional rollercoaster ride leading up to this moment swirl into an experience that can be as dizzying as it is magical. Mom is finally able to gaze into her baby's eyes.

While it's common knowledge that infants need to bond early on, research indicates that what happens in those first 60 minutes can significantly impact the bond between mother and child. That so-called 'Golden Hour' after birth sets the stage for all the growth and development yet to come.

From Then Till Now

Not so long ago, hospital births meant that mother-child bonding took a back seat to medical procedures. Immediately after birth, nurses would take the newborn to a warming table, administer Vitamin K, inject the Hepatitis B vaccine, and put an antibiotic in the baby's eyes. After being weighed and measured, the baby would be cleaned, diapered, and swaddled. Only after all of these procedures had been performed, the mother would be able to cuddle her child.

Medical professionals have come to realize the fallacy in such a process, and nursing leaders at DeTar Hospital North implemented the “Golden Hour” initiative in 2014. Research shows that this method interferes so much with a newborn's healthy transition into the world that the American Academy of Pediatrics has instituted a new policy detailing how newborns should be cared for in that first hour:

  • Nurses are to encourage skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth for healthy infants. When it doesn't pose a health risk, the baby must be placed on the mother's chest or abdomen until the first feeding is accomplished.
  • Medical personnel are to perform the first physical assessments while the baby is on the mother.
  • Conventional procedures, such as weighing, cleaning, and antibiotics must wait until the first feeding is over.
  • The baby and mother should remain together during the recovery period.

DeTar Hospital North’s L&D staff now recommend that visitors wait at least an hour after birth to meet the newborn. That way there is time for this crucial bonding and nursing to take place.

Why the 'Golden Hour'

During labor and the hours following, a mother's body undergoes several important changes. Among them, her brain is flooded with hormones that produce a nurturing instinct. Having the baby suckle at the breast releases additional hormones that foster this bonding. It also helps the woman's uterus contract, shrink, and stop bleeding.

Allowing a woman and her baby to have direct skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the infant's body temperature, heart rhythm, and breathing. After having been cocooned inside the mother's body for months with the gentle rhythm of a heartbeat soothing him or her, the baby is apt to feel safer and more secure in the mother's arms.

When Procedures Must Change

Of course, not everyone can follow these guidelines. Nevertheless, an inability should not prevent bonding or cause any parent to worry that her newborn is somehow missing out. In medical emergencies, such as a baby needing more stimulation to breathe, or in cases of a Cesarean, it may not be feasible for a mom to hold the baby immediately. It's important to recognize that bonding can still take place—whether that be several minutes later or even longer—depending on the health of baby and mom. The priority should always be to ensure the physical well-being of both infant and mother.

Recognizing that birth plans have a way of changing, it's useful for moms-to-be to convey their desires well in advance. Providing a copy of such plans to medical personnel once admitted to the hospital is helpful as well.


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