When a mama gazes into her baby’s eyes immediately after birth, and baby is placed on mama’s abdomen with direct skin contact, a multitude of amazing things happen for both. The first hour after birth is referred to as the “Golden Hour” for a reason.
What happens physiologically to mama and baby during this time is fascinating. Healing begins faster, bonding occurs, breastfeeding has a better success rate, and probiotics get exchanged in a cozy environment. These benefits have made skin-to-skin internationally recommended.
Increased Rate of Success for Breastfeeding
When a baby is skin-to-skin in the first hour of life, baby and mama have primordial instincts to breastfeed. The first milk produced, called colostrum, is what newborns smell in preference just after amniotic fluid. Baby is actually able to crawl up to the breast, motivated by sense of smell. His or her little legs push down on mama’s belly to hunt that nipple! This also helps massage the uterus, minimizing postpartum bleeding for mama too. Amazing isn’t it?
Colostrum is the perfect first meal for baby. It is nutrient rich, high in protein, and full of antibodies to help protect baby from infection. It is lower in sugar and fat than breastmilk, so it is easily digested. A few milliliters help to stabilize baby’s blood sugar over the course of the first 24 hours. Colostrum also helps establish lifelong gut flora. Who needs probiotics anyway?
Probiotics and Baby’s Body Temperature
That is not the only remarkable clinical exchange: good bacteria colonizes from mama’s skin to baby’s! The mother and baby share the same unique antibodies, so a mama’s skin is already a familiar place for baby. Mama’s abdomen is the most beneficial space for a baby within the first hour. Delaying baby’s first bath enhances this probiotic balance, and keeps baby’s body temperature appropriately cozy. Through thermal synchrony, mama’s body is able to fluctuate temperature and meet baby’s needs. If a baby is too cool, the mama’s chest temperature heats up to warm him or her. An intuitive mama’s body is almost always better technology than a hospital baby warmer.
Furthermore, the heart beating of the mum is the most familiar sound for the newborn. It is proved that babies who spend in average two hours non stop skin to skin have more stable heart beating and breathing rhythm.
Finally, we should underline that babies kept against mum’s chest cry much less (in terms of intensity and duration) showing lower cortisol (stress hormone) rates than babies who have been separated.
Winberg J, Mother and Newborn Baby: Mutual Regulation of Physiology and Behavior. A Selective Review.: Dept of pediatrics, Q208, Karolinska Hospital, 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden Dev Psicobiol 2005; 47: 217-229