The Golden Hour – What it is, what it is not
Many changes for the better have been happening in the labor and delivery ward. New terms such as Baby Friendly Hospital and the Golden Hour are becoming a part of the new jargon. What do they mean?
We have written an article describing Baby Friendly Hospital designation. Briefly, it encourages polices that support the mother-baby dyad, promotes policies that support breastfeeding and remove policies that interfere with breastfeeding and the mother-baby relationship. The article is available here.
One of the policies that is part of the baby friendly designation is honoring the Golden Hour following birth. The Golden Hour (which probably should last for 2 hours) honors baby’s natural transition after birth, does not interfere with mother-baby bonding, or with breastfeeding as soon as baby is ready.
What is the Golden Hour?
- During the first hour after birth, Mom (especially with unmedicated birth) has a surge of energy provided by her adrenals. This surge gives her the energy to push her baby out. At the same time, oxytocin is flowing in mom and focuses her attention toward her baby. She is falling head over heels in love! Mama bear is being created! The Golden Hour protects this time of transition. It is also a time for Dad to fall in love. Dad, you can do skin to skin as well! It is incredible!
- During the first hour after birth, baby is in a very alert, yet quiet state. With unmedicated birth, baby also received those same hormones! Baby looks into the face of mom and dad and takes in every detail. Baby also begins to make subtle signs of wanting to breastfeed and may breastcrawl!
- During the Golden Hour, minimal procedures are performed and only while baby is on mom’s chest.
Many hospitals no longer have well baby nurseries. Baby stays with mom unless there is a need for more intensive care. But, this policy alone is not the same thing as honoring The Golden Hour.
What is not the Golden Hour?
- When skin to skin is disrupted
- When first bath is given
- When repeatedly asking to perform certain tasks that remove baby from mom’s chest.
- When baby is weighed
- When to perform any task that removes baby from mom
If staff is pressing to take baby and perform the newborn exam or bath, this is against Baby Friendly policies and dishonors the Golden Hour. Why is this so important?
There are several reasons, but I will give one that I believe encompasses them all. After that first hour of quiet alertness when baby and mom are getting to know each other, baby falls asleep for usually 4-5 hours. This alert stage is gone. It cannot be gotten back.
Ask and demand that your baby’s Golden Hour be honored.
You and your baby deserve this time that only comes once.