Every moment between a mother and her newborn baby is important. For successful breastfeeding, the first hour after birth is arguably the most important.
The first hour after birth is called the Golden Hour, and the activities that happen in that time can significantly impact a baby’s transition from the womb to life outside, according to Julie Hobden, New Beginnings Birth Center Manager at Prowers Medical Center.
“The Golden Hour is a very important part of the transition from inner uterine life to external uterine life, and it helps the baby stabilize and prepares them for the best transition possible,” she explained. “Using the Golden Hour to initiate breastfeeding increases the breastfeeding success rate, since babies have a time frame when they are more alert after birth and more likely to feed.”
Since the Golden Hour is truly the first intimate moments that mother, father and baby will have as a family, it’s crucial in helping form a strong bond through immediate skin-to-skin contact and should be uninterrupted by any outside distractions. It may be tempting to take photos with the newest family member or pass the baby around to friends and family, but these actions can stress the newborn and interfere with their desire to breastfeed.
“If we wait an hour or two later, the baby might get sleepy and might not want to eat anymore,” Hobden said. “Mothers who do not have success breastfeeding may be more likely to go to formula because they missed the window when baby was wide awake. Give yourself one hour to start building this relationship, then once the baby has successful breastfeeding the first time, new families can really take in the excitement of all the other things they want to do and share.”
The Importance of the Golden Hour for Breastfeeding
The first hour of a baby’s life will determine how they adapt to their new environment, and skin-to-skin contact helps regulate their temperature, breathing and heart rate. Breastfeeding within the first hour allows the infant to receive the benefits of the mother’s colostrum, a nutrient-filled fluid produced before milk is released, which can help boost the baby’s newly developing immune system and protect them from illnesses in their first few months. Milk usually takes a few days to come in for the mother.
For the baby, the benefits of breastfeeding in the Golden Hour include:
- Stabilized blood sugars.
- Lower rate of ear infections, asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Lower risk of developing diabetes, childhood leukemia or childhood obesity.
- An increase in the chance of successfully breastfeeding and breastfeeding longer.
For mothers, immediate breastfeeding can cause the uterus to contract and can decrease bleeding. Other benefits of breastfeeding for moms include:
- Lower rate of developing breast and ovarian cancer as well as diabetes.
- Lower risk of postpartum depression.
- Increased milk supply.
- Earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight.
Hobden said when talking to new mothers, they discuss the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother. Some moms are hesitant to breastfeed because they don’t want to start when they have to return to work soon. Others worry it will hurt, or they believe bottle feeding will be easier. Yet with breastfeeding, moms have a free milk supply at-the-ready wherever they go.
“Breastfed babies very seldom need to be supplemented — what they’re getting from mom is enough,” she explained.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the mother to determine whether or not she wants to breastfeed her baby. Bottle-fed babies can still capture important and necessary bonding moments after birth.
Even if the Golden Hour slips away from the mother, father and baby — for example, during a C-section delivery — not all hope is lost when it comes to breastfeeding.
“It might take a little more work to get it going,” she said, “but it can still happen, even the same day. If the Golden Hour is missed, we try to get the baby breastfed as soon as we can.”
Either way, the team at New Beginnings Birth Center at Prowers Medical Center is here to offer high-quality labor and delivery support as well as help new mothers facilitate their feeding choices with their newborns.
“We are here to support them,” Hobden said. “Taking advantage of Golden Hour is one of the best strategies new moms can use to successfully breastfeed and make the biggest lifelong impact for themselves and their baby.”
For more information, call (719) 336-6759 go to prowersmedical.com/services/new-beginnings-birth-center.