The science behind the ‘golden hour’ after birth: Experts reveal why the first 60 minutes of skin-to-skin contact is vital for both the mother and newborn
- Mothers are given newborns immediately after birth for skin-to-skin contact
- This experience regulates the baby’s vitals and boosts bonding
- READ MORE: Experts reveal why you shouldn’t say ‘be careful’ to your child
The first time a mother pulls her newborn close to her skin sets the tone of their relationship, but science shows this ‘golden hour’ is vital for their health.
Medical experts have found that the first 60 minutes of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby’s temperature, control respiration and lower the risk of low blood sugar.
Not only is it crucial for the new life that just entered the world, but the experience also provides oxytocin production in the mother, promoting bonding and milk supply.
Professionals recommend that the baby be immediately placed faced down on their mother’s belly, with a blanket covering both of them.
This position slows the production of adrenaline hormones in the mother to not interfere with the production of oxytocin and prolactin hormones.
The first time a mother pulls her newborn close to her skin sets the tone of their relationship, but science shows this ‘golden hour’ is vital for their health
Tenelle Choal, a certified nurse-midwife at Sanford Health in South Dakota, said in a statement: ‘The golden hour is very beneficial and critical for even years down the road between both mom and baby.
‘It’s super helpful to stabilize the newborn coming out of utero, as well as bonding.’
French obstetrician Michael Odent described in 1977 that newborns sought the breast within the first hour of life, which started the idea of the golden hour among the medical community.
And studies have shown that 60 minutes or more of instant skin-to-skin contact increases the percentage of a child breastfeeding at three months.
The golden hour has also proved to increase the time the baby is in a quiet alert state and reduce crying.
Once a mother brings her newborn close, oxytocin is immediately released in her body, decreasing postpartum bleeding and the risk of postpartum hemorrhage and providing more rapid delivery of the placenta and uterine involution.
‘For baby, it helps for thermal regulation, or a fancy term for helping baby regulate temperature, as well as stabilizing blood sugar,’ said Choal.
Not only is it crucial for the new life that just entered the world, but the experience also provides oxytocin production in the mother, promoting bonding and milk supply
‘And then for mom, it helps mom produce hormones that help her to breastfeed and produce milk, as well as decrease stress and anxiety and depression for her.’
Another way to facilitate bonding is to hold your newborn long after you leave the hospital.
New parents have long been advised to put their newborns down not to spoil them, but contrary to the popular myth, cuddling activates oxytocin, increases bonding and stimulates their brains to further development.
Not only does holding your little one close keep them warm, but it curbs crying, regulates breathing and heart rate, helps with weight gain and improves growth.
READ MORE: Scientists develop a ‘recipe’ to stop babies crying
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These findings are compared to children who have not had physical attention and are found to be at higher risk of behavioral, emotional and social problems as they grow up.
Years of studies have proven the importance of touch between a caregiver and a baby, Parents reports.
One paper, published in 2020, applauds the act of skin-to-skin contact, where an infant is dressed only in a diaper and placed on the mother’s bare chest.
This outcome results in the release of oxytocin, which is associated with trust and relationship building, and the activation of sensory nerve fibers.
The study highlights several others, with one noting how the contact is also beneficial to the caregiver.
‘Their findings indicate the nurturing and predictive quality of parents’ touch as a primary means of early contact and communication,’ reads the paper.
A team of researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio observed 125 premature and full-term infants to see how they responded to touch, such as cuddling with a parent or not-so-light touches during medical procedures.
The results showed that newborns touched gently had more brain responses than when they endured another touch during procedures.
This, according to Parents Magazine, suggests that ‘good’ touching helps with brain development.
Nathalie Maitre, who was involved in the study, said in a statement: ‘We certainly hoped to see that more positive touch experiences in the hospital would help babies have a more typical perception of touch when they went home.
‘But, we were very surprised to find out that if babies experience more painful procedures early in life, their sense of gentle touch can be affected.’
‘For new parents, including those whose young children must undergo complex medical procedures, take heart: your touch matters more than you know.’
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