What is the golden hour?
The golden hour is the hour directly following the birth of your baby, whether it is a vaginal birth or birth by c-section. This is a time for you to meet and get acquainted with your baby with, ideally, little interference from providers. Hands-off baby and mama is an important part of getting all of the benefits of this special time.
How to make the most of this time
Baby should be placed directly skin to skin on mama's chest with a warm blanket placed over you both. You are your baby's home and all they want is to be on you, hearing you, smelling you, and feeling you. Simply being skin-to-skin with you on your chest for the first hour will help regulate your baby's blood sugar, body temperature, and breathing rate. Pretty incredible right?
Should I breastfeed during the golden hour?
The golden hour is also the ideal time to introduce your baby to the breast. Did you know that babies left to their own devices can actually crawl from the mom's belly to breast and latch on their own? Your baby comes with a ton of instinctual behaviors to aid in the feeding journey. You and your baby are meant to work together during this time. Babies are more willing to latch and colostrum flows easily.
Hand expression can be a big part of the golden hour. Studies show that using your hands to express milk within the first hour after your birth could increase your milk supply by 130% by 6 six weeks postpartum. That is a big deal!
Get my complete guide to hand expression, here.
How do I hand express?
- light massage around the nipple/areola...get acquainted with your breasts and nipples
- place a finger in a "C" around the nipple
- compress (push) fingers back toward your chest wall
- then brings fingers together for a 1-second hold
- Relax your fingers and repeat
- IT IS NORMAL FOR IT TO TAKE A FEW MINUTES FOR MILK TO FLOW, ALTERNATE WITH LIGHT MASSAGE, AND TRY TO RELAX.
Click here for my free guide to baby-led latching.
Let’s go over some latching basics to help you have some skills and know-how going into your first latch.
- Start with a leaned-back position, wayyyyy back, think binge-watching Netflix at 9 months pregnant.
- Hold your baby close, tummy to tummy, with both their baby and head facing you.
- Bring your baby to your breast, rather than your breast to your baby.
- Gently touch your baby's lips with your nipple, and wait for them to open their mouth wide.
- Bring your baby in close, so that their lower jaw is against the base of your nipple, and the entire areola (the dark area around the nipple) is in their mouth.
- Make sure that the baby's tongue is down and forward, covering the lower gum.
If this is so ideal, why isn't it happening at every birth?
Good question. It is the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that this happens, it's better for moms and babies, what gives? Unfortunately for most births, particularly in the US, many competing factors come into play...from newborn exams to moving the mom/baby pair to a different room, to shots it can feel easier for your providers to skimp on this hour and rush things along.
How can you advocate for your golden hour?
Talk to your providers early and often about your desires, the current recommendations, and how they typically approach births. One question that can be helpful is, “What would prevent me from being skin-to-skin with my baby for the golden hour.” It is one thing for a provider to say they encourage and advocate for the golden hour, but it may be different than how they consistently allow births to play out. If you are planning to give birth at a hospital or birth center, tour the facility and ask specifically about the golden hour after birth and what the hospital's procedures are for both vaginal and c-section births.
Talk with your labor and delivery nurse. You may know your provider's views or hospital policy but just because something is policy does not mean your nurse will follow that policy! Express your desires, ask for medications or assessments to be delayed until 1-2 hours out after birth or done while your baby remains skin to skin on your chest.
A note on c-sections: there is a move towards family-centered c-sections in many hospitals. What does this mean for you? A family-centered c-section allows for skin-to-skin directly from when your baby is born in the OR and, with some facilities and providers, provides support for your baby also latching during the first hour. If your facility does not allow for this currently, ask for it!! Patients are often the catalyst for change in health care. You may initially receive pushback, but consistently asking and talking with your provider can go a long way.
Key points to remember about the golden hour
- Initiating a latch and feeding your baby in the first hour is associated with higher rates of successful breastfeeding and the duration of the breastfeeding journey.
- Your baby is capable of latching during this time and your body is primed to give them colostrum.
- By staying skin-to-skin for the first hour you are helping regulate your baby's breathing, blood sugar, and body temperature and you are both getting a nice oxytocin boost which also helps your uterus to contract down.
- Helps parent-baby bonding and boosts infant brain development.
- You are your baby's home! They are most comfortable on and near you.
What to do if the golden hour ISN’T possible for you
The golden hour is amazing, but how can you approach your baby and breastfeeding if the golden hour does not happen, for any variety of reasons?
First, know that you and your baby are doing the very best in the journey you are on. It is normal to feel a variety of feelings if your birth and early time together did not go as planned or did not happen at all. Connecting with your baby and establishing breastfeeding in a positive, healing, and affirming way is key.
I can't recommend skin-to-skin time with your baby enough. It is not just for the early hours or days with your baby. Any time you are trying to reach breastfeeding goals or shift things, skin-to-skin is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to boost supply, connections, and feel-good hormones.
Co-bathing and rebirth
What is co-bathing and rebirth and how can it help you reset? I love co-bathing for a variety of reasons. Co-bathing is simply taking a bath with your baby. It is a great way to do skin-to-skin in a calming space for both you and your baby.
Rebirthing can be a natural next step if you did not get that pivotal golden hour time and are having trouble with latching. It is a way to reset for both mom and baby. Check out this clip below on how to do rebirthing with your baby.
By following the tips and tricks in this guide to making the most of your baby’s golden hour, you’ll be prepared to experience a memorable and calming moment when your baby arrives. Not only will this help create an amazing foundation for your relationship, but it can also make early breastfeeding easier.
As always, this advice and blog are meant to empower you to advocate for yourself and feel good about the choices you were able to make. I hope you found some useful tips for making the most of this time! Comment below and let us know how the golden hour impacted your breastfeeding experience..
How to get more help today…
I designed Boob School as the educational and supportive place I wish I had had when I was first breasting. In Boob School, get access to 12+ modules, live class recordings, free membership to natural breastfeeding, 11 bonus guides, a private Facebook group, and live weekly support calls! You don’t need to figure out breastfeeding alone - we got your back from the first latch to the last!
Need more one-to-one support? You can reach out to a team member today, here.
Cheering you on, always!!
Boob School Founder and CEO
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