The golden hour should still be supported after a caesarean birth. If you’re not feeling well enough to hold your baby, or if you’re recovering from a general anaesthetic, which happens very rarely, you can still have someone hold your baby to your breast for you if you want to, which will help your uterus to shrink and also makes breastfeeding more likely to work well. If this is right for you, you will need to add this to your birth plan in advance, and talk to your midwife about who may be able to do this for you. However, most people who give birth by caesarean will be able to hold their baby quickly after the birth, and many doctors are now learning how to safely hand the baby straight to their mother or birth parent immediately after they are born, while still in the operating theatre.
Holding your baby or babies skin on skin after birth and letting them have free access to your breasts is also important for other reasons. This skin to skin contact:
- Helps to “seed” a baby’s microbiome – the good bacteria in their gut – which can be important for life long health,
- Helps to regulate a newborn baby’s body temperature,
- Helps to regulate the baby’s blood sugar, so is extra important for babies born to women or people with diabetes,
- Calms and reassures babies, so they’re more likely to relax and seek out the breast rather than crying and losing energy that they may need to feed well,
- Feels amazing!
Of course, sometimes it’s simply not possible to have an hour (or more) of undisturbed time with your baby. Babies who need extra help at birth, or who are very unwell, may need to be taken away for medical care. You may need to have treatment which can’t be done while you hold your baby. Sometimes it can be days, weeks or even months before parents can hold their baby, for instance if they’re born very prematurely. In these circumstances the golden hour can’t happen, and that can sometimes feel very sad.
In these situations, many parents find that once they are able to hold and really get to know their baby they can follow some of the golden hour principles, cuddling their baby skin to skin and getting to really know them. This can be very important for bonding after a difficult start. Snuggling your baby close is something that is important throughout their infanthood and not just something to do just after birth! However, protecting this hour where medically possible is very important and should be a normal part of midwifery care.
The Golden Hour is time that should be protected right after a baby’s birth where we get to know our babies without interference. It supports our body’s physiology and boosts oxytocin. Oxytocin right after birth is important for reducing the chance of heavy bleeding, as well as having a key role in bonding. Interfering with mothers and babies at this time can therefore increase the chance of heavy bleeding or haemorrhage, so The Golden Hour is very important to support and protect.