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Skin-To-Skin & The Sacred Magic of The Golden Hour

This is the sacred beauty of “The Golden Hour.” Those precious first moments after birth when mothers and babies, bathed in oxytocin and basking in the mutual triumph of birthing as a team, fall in love. Just like all mammals, human mamas benefit greatly from nuzzling, touching, smelling, kissing, and holding our babies close after they are born. But placing our newborn’s tiny naked body on our bare chest isn’t just good for us, but this act of bonding also carries so many wonderful benefits for baby, too. This is why holding space for the magic of “The Golden Hour” is becoming more accepted and encouraged, not just in home and birth center births, but in hospital births as well. One of the doula’s most important jobs is protecting this beautiful first meeting of mother and child, helping to ensure that they both experience all of the goodness that unfolds during this time.

Benefits of Immediate Skin-To-Skin Contact:

  1. It releases hormones which regulate baby’s temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood sugar. It also helps alleviate any stress baby may be experiencing following birth by reducing cortisol levels (stress hormone).

  2. It stimulates continued release of oxytocin, “the love hormone,” which helps facilitate breastfeeding, and has been linked to increased newborn weight gain. It also contributes to the immediate bonding of mom and baby.

  3. Bringing baby skin-to-skin also allows them to smell the secretions from the Glands of Montgomery on the areolae, which smell like amniotic fluid, a scent familiar to baby, further fostering nursing success.

  4. Along the same lines as #2 and #3, skin-to-skin contact enhances mother-baby nonverbal communication. It also may reduce crying and help alleviate postpartum pain for both. Skin-to-skin has also been shown to help reduce incidences of postpartum depression through promotion of attachment and reduction of maternal anxiety.

  5. It improves baby’s immunity by colonizing them with mom’s good bacteria. This, along with breastfeeding, provides protection for baby from illness and infection.

  6. Outside of “The Golden Hour,” skin-to-skin contact with fathers or partners can facilitate bonding and also be calming for baby, who recognizes his/her voice from their time in the womb.

This precious time happens only once after every birth. Let us work diligently to maintain its sacred magic.

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