Protect The Golden Hour After Birth
BY LINDSEY MEEHLEIS
Think of how mammals treat their babies after birth. Your cat might give birth unobserved, int he middle of the night after the family has gone to bed. As her kittens are born, she removes their amniotic sacs and slowly lets them find their source of food on their own. She doesn’t pry open their mouths and help them latch; they instinctively do it by themselves. Fast forward to the way we see births in movies and on TV. First comes screaming and drama, then we see cords immediately cut, and babies whisked off to warming tables for deep suctioning. For most of history, we didn’t have scissors ready in the cave, nor did we have warming tables or deep suctioning. Sometimes these life-saving techniques are necessary, but they are not always required.
By slowing this period down, suctioning only when necessary, and keeping the cord intact until it physiologically closes on its own (see AlanGreen’s Ted Talk at http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Alan-Greene-at-TEDxBrussels), we keep the mother-baby unit attached while the placenta remains unbirthed. This requires Baby to stay in constant skin-to-skin contact with Mom. Babies are born with the innate instinct to find the breast on their own, like kittens are. They have a natural suck reflex, and the nipple secretes a scent that mimics amniotic fluid, which also creates a drive to find their food source.
Here are my tips for keeping the golden hour sacred:
1. In your birth plan, ask for lower lights and quiet voices.
2. Ask to "catch" your own baby. The best reward for all the handwork for childbirth can be lifting your baby up onto your chest.
3. Request optimal cord closure (or delayed cord clamping). You will see the cord physically pulsate, giving the baby blood rich in ion, stem cell and oxygen. Some teaching hospitals are purchasing resuscitation tables that allow the cord to stay intact if resuscitation is required because research is revealing the importance of oxygen-rich blood.
4. If your baby is pink and crying, stimulation or drying are not needed. Request that the hospital room be kept warmer before giving birth.
5. Allow baby to naturally "crawl" to the breast. Breastfeeding doesn't need to be initiated immediately after birth. Research shows that babies process things seven times more slowly than we do. So give them time; they will usually head toward the breast within 30 minutes of birth.
6. No visitors the first hour. I promise Grandma and Grandpa will get all their baby cuddling in, but this first hour after birth is really about meeting your baby and nursing.
7. Delay all routine newborn procedures. Hospitals usually like to give eye ointment and vitamin K within two hours of birth, but you can delay the bath until you are home.
8. Don't worry if you are having a cesarean birth. You can still protect the golden hour. Just call it the golden two hours. Request to see and hold your baby in the operating room. Dad can sit skin to skin with baby in the recovery room while you are being wheeled in. Once you are settled in the recovery room, all of the above recommendations apply. Uncover your baby, remove that hat and explore your child. Let him or her crawl toward your breast.
Lindsey Meehleis, Licensed Midwife, is the owner of OC Midwifery (ocmidwifery.com)