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Prenatal Breastfeeding: The Golden Hour

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

When it comes to prenatal breastfeeding tips I think understanding the "Golden Hour" is a great place to start. It can have an impact on long term breastfeeding goals and when prioritized, it can help set you up for better success.

The Golden Hour is known as the first hour (or two) after birth when, ideally, a mother has uninterrupted, skin-to-skin (S2S) contact with her baby. S2S promotes:

  • decreased rate of postpartum hemorrhage- by releasing oxytocin in mom which helps contract the uterus and facilitate faster expulsion of placenta which helps reduce likelihood of hemorrhage.

  • encourages correct suckling- by keeping baby S2S this helps facilitate their innate reflexes like the stepping reflex which facilitates the breast crawl and self attaching. Check out the mom and baby in this video. I think it's pretty incredible to see how much a newborn baby can move when left uninterrupted. (Fast forward to 7:00 to see the magic happen)

  • less crying from baby

  • keeps baby warmer- newborns are unable to regulate their own body temperature but by keeping baby S2S on your chest your breasts actually increase or decrease to just the right temperature to regulate baby's temp.

  • promotes early initiation of suckling and production of milk supply- suckling within first two hours after birth is linked to better ongoing milk production.

I previously mentioned that S2S "ideally" happens because sometimes mom and baby aren't always able to spend that first one to two hours uninterrupted. Whatever the reason may be there are things you can still do to promote S2S for baby and the facilitation of your milk supply, if you're not able to latch your baby.

  1. Check to see if the hospital or facility you'll be delivering at is a Baby-Friendly facility. A Baby-Friendly facility is one that has agreed to upholding a certain set of standards that promote things like early S2S after birth. If you don't see the hospital or facility you plan to deliver at on the list that doesn't mean it's not an option for you. I would just encourage you to have a talk with your primary care provider and let them know that you would like S2S for at least the first hour following the birth of your baby. This may already be something they do but it never hurts to ask.

  2. If you have a c-section there are two things I recommend. First, you can still request S2S with your baby. Having a c-section does not make S2S impossible. You can watch the mom and baby in this video get to experience S2S through the support of her doctor. Second, if you are not able to have S2S with your baby I would encourage your partner to do so. This is still very beneficial and promotes bonding!

  3. If you and your baby have to be separated for the first 1-2+ hours I would strongly encourage you to become familiar with hand expressing your milk so that you're able to promote ongoing milk production during a critical time. This is also something your partner can learn how to do in the event that you need assistance.

A few final notes :) ....

When it comes to that first initial latch and suckling, don't stress! And don't worry about forcing your baby to your breast. This may actually cause some distress.

If Pitocin or pain medications were administered during labor/delivery these drugs can have a temporary impact on baby's ability to latch and suckle. The length of time this impact lasts has been found to be directly proportional to how much medication was administered. In these situations, self attachment of baby to breast may take up to 2 hours. S2S is still just as beneficial and baby may require gentle assistance with locating your breast.

Most importantly, if you're reading this and you recently had a baby and you're now stressing about not getting that S2S time or you're having concerns about your milk supply, please do not stress. As always, these are just recommendations. But, if you have questions or concerns please reach out to a local IBCLC.

Did you enjoy this post?? I'd love to know what you'd like to read about next.

Let me know!

  • Hunger cues

  • Latching

  • Or leave a comment below :)

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