Tips from an LC: What to Expect After Birth in the First Few Hours

The time immediately following your baby's birth is magical - and often referred to as "the golden hour". Skin to skin contact is an important way to bond with your little one, reduce stress hormones, and even encourage early latching.

What to Expect in the First Few Hours After Birth

Transcript: What to Expect in the First Few Hours After Birth

When your baby is born, it is a magical time for bonding - often called the golden hour. After waiting so many months to see each other, you finally get to look into each other’s eyes. Immediately after birth, your baby will be placed onto your chest, dried, and covered with warm blankets. This time in skin to skin contact is a beautiful moment, giving you and your baby time to relax and reduce the stress hormones. These first 60 minutes or so with your baby in skin to skin contact allows them to initiate all of their incredible natural reflexes, which enable them to move on their own towards your breast and latch on to feed all by themselves. Skin-to-skin contact also helps release the hormone oxytocin, which pushes the milk down through your milk ducts, delivering it to your baby.

Holding your baby in skin to skin contact during this first hour allows for delayed cord clamping, helps your baby to regulate and maintain a normal temperature, and has been shown to increase the rates and duration of breastfeeding.

Research has shown that when both mother and baby are healthy, it is important to leave them uninterrupted during the “golden hour”.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that:

  • Healthy newborns should be placed in “skin-to-skin” contact with their mom until after the
    first breastfeed.
  • All initial physical assessments of your baby can be done whilst they are on your chest.
  • Procedures such as weighing, measuring, and any injections should wait until after the
    first feeding.

If you have a planned or unplanned caesarean section you may need to wait a few moments to be able to hold your baby. In most cases, after a quick initial assessment, the midwives or nurses can place the baby on your chest in skin to skin contact. Some babies may even initiate breastfeeds in the operating room, while others will need a little bit more time.

If for any reason you are unable to hold your baby in skin to skin contact straight after birth, it is also beneficial and quite lovely for your baby to be held in skin to skin contact by your birthing partner. This will help to keep your baby warm, it will calm them, reduce their crying, and help them to recover after labour.

Make sure to write down in your birth plan what you would like to happen in the first golden hour!

What to Expect After Birth: The Next Few Hours

After this first feed during the golden hour, it is likely that your baby will have a long recovery sleep. It is also important that you take the opportunity to sleep during this point as well. It is likely that this will be the longest sleep you get for many days or weeks! So, as tempting as it may be to bring in visitors and tell everyone via text message, make sure you get your recovery sleep. Our bodies are clever and are designed for us to catch up on some rest during these next few hours. Because after this point your baby is likely to feed incredibly frequently, and this is very normal.

At first, your breasts are making colostrum - a wonderful milk packed full of protection for your baby, but it is not very large in volume. So, this means that babies are designed to feed really frequently in the first few hours and days. They could be feeding anywhere from every 45 minutes to 3 hours! And this is normal for most babies. Each time they feed, it releases the hormone known as prolactin, which helps to switch on your milk-making cells and helping you build up a good milk supply for the future.

So, over these next few hours, be kind to yourself and remember your main jobs are to hold your baby in skin to skin contact, feed your baby as often as they show you their feeding cues, and get as much sleep in between as possible. All the other jobs can wait or be done by those support people around you. These first few hours are critical for you to establish breastfeeding, feel confident, and to get enough rest.