There is so much planning that goes into your pregnancy and delivery. But what if I told you that the first couple of hours after your baby is born, are actually even more important? Sounds crazy, right? I mean, that’s when you’re super exhausted and you’ve just done the hardest thing you’ve ever done, so it’s time to just chill. The good news is, even as magical and important as the first couple of hours are, it still involves a great deal of chill.
Those first couple of hours after birth are specifically referred to The Golden Hour or The Magic Hour and for good reason! Initiating breastfeeding during this first hour can help set you up for a successful experience. According to The Healthy Children Project, your baby will experience 9 instinctive stages during that time. This is why most hospitals have moved to more “baby friendly” experiences. They know and understand that your new babe will need your undivided attention and the tests, pokes and weighs can certainly wait. I would definitely talk to your care provider to make sure that they are on board with delaying interventions (as long as baby and mom are healthy) as well as checking with your hospital to make sure it’s their standard practice. The worst time to find this information out is when you’ve just delivered.
It’s also important to note that even though you have well-meaning family who will be anxious to see, hold, photograph and alert social media of your latest arrival, I encourage you to simply keep this time sacred. Keep it as intimate and non-stimulating as possible.
So what exactly happens in those first moments of baby’s life?
Typically, the first thing you will hear is the distinctive Birth Cry. This is just a good sign that the baby’s lungs have expanded and filled with air. Baby is making their presence known the only way they know how. The baby should be placed immediately on your chest for some skin to skin love. Make sure baby is under your gown, if you’re wearing one or simply covered with a blanket if you’re not. It may feel a little messy, but leaving all of that amazing vernix (white/yellow cheesy substance on baby’s skin) is really important.
You’ll probably notice once baby is skin to skin, they enter a relaxation phase. They’re warming up and quite honestly just so relaxed to be in the most comfortable place they’ve ever been, their mother’s arms! This is a perfect time for you to just take a breather if you want. Now is the time that your doctor or midwife will be delivering the placenta and making any repairs necessary. Of course, you may just be completely smitten and checking out the sweet little bundle in your arms.
Now comes the awakening stage. They may open their eyes and be more aware. You’ll start to notice small head thrusts and movement. Which all leads to the next active phase. Baby will start to make sucking motions and the rooting stage will start to become more recognizable.
The next stage is a phenomenon known as “crawling”. While it’s not quite what we know and envision as toddlers crawling, it’s similar in that the baby uses the legs to get in a better position to reach your breast so they can get latched on. Being patient and allowing baby to explore and initiate breastfeeding can be a rewarding experience for both you and baby. You’ll notice the newborn becoming aware, or familiarizing itself with the breast. Keep in mind that your breast excretes hormones that smell very similar to the amniotic fluid your baby just left. They will start to lick and touch the breast. They are seeking out something that is very familiar to them.
All of these stages lead to the very next important phase, suckling! The baby will latch on to the nipple and begin to suck. These first initial “feeds” are really not necessarily about your baby having a Thanksgiving Day type of meal. Your baby will, in fact, only receive a very small amount of colostrum. Colostrum will be on the menu for the first few days, as your milk will probably not “come in” for a couple of days. The colostrum is full of all of the things your newborn needs to sustain him in the first few days of life. Actually, it’s full of protein, very easily digested and can act as a laxative to help baby pass bilirubin to prevent jaundice. Sounds pretty perfect, right? So while you’ll be famished and sending your partner out for whatever food you’ve been craving during your long labor, your babe only has a belly that’s the size of a cherry. Utilize this time to just bond with baby and give them time to figure out exactly what it is they’re doing with that amazing breast of yours!
So, all of this can happen within the first couple of hours of life? Yep! It’s amazing that all of this takes place just as baby is born and that is why it is a Magical Hour (or two). It’s also why it’s so crucial for medical staff to step aside and let the baby lead the way. Now, there is not much of a way around having that initial once over by the nurse. They will hop in to listen to baby’s respiration and do a little suctioning of the nose and mouth. But for the most part, everything can be delayed until baby has had a chance to nurse and get settled.
I would love to delve into the wonderful world of the Breast Crawl, but I will save that for my next blog post. Honestly, do some research to see how amazing and beneficial it can be. I definitely recommend considering it as an option if you plan to breastfeed!
Until Next Time!