The Golden Hour: Skin-to-Skin Contact After Birth

The time immediately following birth is known as the Golden Hour when it comes to mother-baby bonding. During this period, skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby is critical to promote attachment, reduce stress for both mother and baby and to help baby adapt to life outside of the womb. If you are healthy and deliver your baby after at least 37 weeks of pregnancy, the UK HealthCare team will facilitate Kangaroo Care, which is otherwise known as skin-to-skin contact.

Skin-to-Skin, Step by Step

After you deliver your baby vaginally, a nurse will clean and dry your baby before placing her skin-to-skin and belly-to-belly with you. During this time, the nurse will also place a diaper on your baby and cover you both with warm blankets to regulate your baby’s temperature. Other benefits of skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth include regulation of your baby’s blood sugar, heart rate and respiratory rate. Such close contact with you also helps to soothe your baby, who can hear your heartbeat and find comfort in your smell.

As you and your baby enjoy closeness with one another, the nurse can conduct necessary care on each of you. This is also when your baby will most likely make her way to your breast and latch on for her first breastfeeding after birth. If you need assistance, the nurse can offer guidance.

Once your baby is an hour old, hospital staff will do measurements and give shots, then place your baby in Kangaroo Care for a second hour of skin-to-skin with you or with your partner. Parents, as well as members of the medical team, when necessary, are the only individuals who should hold the baby during the first two hours after birth. Passing baby around during this time could make his or her temperature fall.  After those first two hours, family members are free to enjoy holding your baby.

If you have a Cesarean section, you and your baby can still enjoy skin-to-skin as soon as you are settled into the recovery room. A lactation consultant will also be present to help you begin breastfeeding.

Skin-to-Skin in the NICU

In the event that your baby is born early and must spend time in the [neonatal intensive care unit] (NICU), you will still be able to practice skin-to-skin care. Once your baby’s condition is stable, a nurse certified in Kangaroo Care can help you and your baby get situated. The duration of skin-to-skin is dependent on your preference and your baby’s care needs, but a minimum of one hour of skin-to-skin contact every day is encouraged.