The first hour after birth is a momentous occasion when a baby first adapts to life outside the womb. Skin-to-skin contact at birth is a simple, yet profound interaction which increases the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the baby. The Sacred Hour is uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with the mother immediately after birth that allows each newborn to follow nine specific behaviors leading to breastfeeding. There is evidence which shows that newborns placed skin-to-skin experience less stress and parents show more confidence in caring for their newborn. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity when baby meets parents for the first time and a family is formed. This sacred time should be honored, cherished and protected.
What to Expect
The Sacred Hour will begin immediately after the mother delivers. The mother’s chest will be bare and the baby will be placed on her tummy, dried and covered with a warm blanket allowing the mother and child to experience skin-to-skin contact. The baby will remain with the mother, uninterrupted, until after the first breastfeeding. Mothers are offered this opportunity after vaginal and c-section births. If there is a medical reason that delays immediate skin-to-skin contact with the newborn, The Sacred Hour will begin as soon as possible after assessment from the care team.
Bonding With Your Baby
The initial bond between a mother and infant is very important after delivery. Bonding is essential for a baby and is an important process for all new parents to experience firsthand, including fathers. Infants bond through touch and smell. Participating in skin-to-skin contact with your newborn enhances that bond.
There are many short- and long-term benefits for participating in uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact after birth for parents and baby
- Babies are warmer after birth
- Babies breathe easier and have more normal heart rates
- Babies are much calmer and cry less
- Babies can latch onto the breast all by themselves
- Mothers and babies get to know each other sooner
- Mothers have higher levels of relaxation hormones
- Mother-infant attachment supports infant brain development
- Mothers and babies are more successful with breastfeeding and tend to breastfeed longer
- Milk supply can be improved
- Fathers can be a part of the birthing experience
- Fathers can hold the baby skin-to-skin
- Fathers can monitor the nine stages of their babies
- Fathers can marvel at the ability of their baby
When babies are placed skin-to-skin with their mothers, there are nine observable stages of newborn behavior that lead to the first unassisted breastfeeding.
1. The Birth Cry
A distinctive cry that occurs as the baby’s lungs expand for the first time.
After the birth cry stops, the mouth and hands become relaxed. The baby is very quiet and still.
Usually starts around 3 minutes after birth. The baby may open his or her eyes, move his or her head and shoulders and show some mouth activity.
Usually begins around 8 minutes after birth. During this stage, your newborn could:
- Keep eyes open
- Look at the breast
- Salivate (dampen mother’s skin)
- Root by moving the mouth from side to side, rubbing the cheek against mother’s chest
- Exhibit high rooting by lifting part of the torso from mother’s chest
- Bring hand to mouth
- Move hand to the mother’s breast and back to the mouth
- Stick out tongue
- Look at mother
- Massage mother’s breast with one or both hands
The Baby may have periods of resting at any point throughout the first hour.
Usually begins around 35 minutes after birth. The baby will move his or her way to the breast by crawling (sometimes while also sliding, pushing and rooting). The baby may lift their torso or head while moving toward the breast.
Usually begins around 45 minutes after birth, lasting around 20 minutes. During this stage, your newborn could:
- Touch and/or massage mother’s breast
- Lick mother’s breast and/or nipple
- Look at mother
- Make sounds
- Stick out tongue
- Lick or suck on his or her own hand
- Look at other people
About an hour after birth the newborn will usually take the nipple, self-attach and suckle. It may take more time with the baby skin-to-skin to complete the previous stages if the mother has had a c-section, medication for pain or an epidural.
Baby, and sometimes mother, may fall into a restful sleep about 1 1/2 to 2 hours after birth.