Updated: Jul 13
The golden hour is defined as an hour of uninterrupted time to do skin-to-skin and bond with your baby immediately after birth. Ideally, it is you and your partner marveling over what just happened and the sweet little baby you finally get to meet. Emotions may be mixed. Some parents feel and instant bond while for others it may take some time (this is totally normal).
Why is the golden hour important?
This timeframe allows you to get to know and bond with your baby a little bit, but skin-to-skin helps regulate your baby's temperature and facilities breast/chestfeeding. The release of oxytocin during skin-to-skin and breast/chestfeeding helps your uterus to contract back down. Research also shows us that skin-to-skin during the golden hour (and beyond) helps reduce stress in both the birthing person and baby.
What to expect during the golden hour?
You still have to birth your placenta
The umbilical cord will be clamped and cut
You will be examined for vaginal tearing and stitched up as necessary
You may need your BP and temperature taken during this time
Your baby's vitals will often be taken
You may feel pressured to breast/chestfeed before the hour has passed
Fundal massage: uncomfortable massage to check that your uterus is shrinking back down and you don't have any clots
What if I have a C-section?
If you have a c-section, the Golden Hour is harder, but there are still aspects that you can maintain.
You can push your provider for immediate skin-to-skin like a vaginal birth, but it's uncommon in the US. It's more than likely that after birth, your baby will go to the warmer to be examined. If you have your partner and your doula in the OR with you, one of them can go with baby and the other can stay with you. Whoever is with baby should remind the nurses that you want skin-to-skin as quickly as possible.
Provided baby is doing well, tell the medical team that you want to hold baby ASAP. The team can help facilitate skin-to-skin on the operating table while you're still being stitched up.
Please note: It's ok if you don't want this skin-to-skin time. C-sections are major surgery and everyone reacts a little differently. Many people experience shakes, nausea, or other discomforts that make holding your baby unpleasant. Don't worry. Take time to recover, and your baby will be content in your partner's arms.
Post surgery, we recommend being skin-to-skin (no bra, no shirt, no onesie, just a diaper) with your baby as much as possible to encourage the flow of hormones that help with bonding and milk production.
After the Golden Hour
After your baby has gotten a feed in and the hour has come and gone you will likely experience these things next:
You have to get up and go pee (this may take longer if you got an epidural or had surgery)
Your baby's stats will be recorded: length, weight, head circumference etc.
Your baby will receive Hep B vaccine, Vitamin K shot, and the eye ointment if you have requested some or all of them (see our blog post about Newborn Interventions).
You will get prepped to go to your postpartum recovery space. If you birthed in a birth center, this means you're packing up to go home. If you birthed in a hospital, you likely need to move to a different room on the postpartum wing.
The truth is, you don't need an excuse to keep doing skin-to-skin with your baby after the first hour is up. You can hold your baby all the way up to your postpartum recovery room. If your baby is swaddled for the move once you get settled in the new space, get comfy and continue skin-to-skin. The first 5 days of your postpartum recovery journey should be spent doing tons of skin-to-skin. This will help your milk production but also encourage you to get to know your baby, and take it slow for healing.
What were you most surprised about when you experienced your Golden Hour? If you haven't experienced it yet, what will you add to your birth plan to facilitate the Golden Hour for your postpartum journey?