THE SACRED HOUR

The Initial Bond

The room is hushed except for the sounds of you, the new parents, talking to each other and your new baby, welcoming him or her into your family. By the time the Sacred Hour has passed, you will have experienced your baby instinctively pass through nine stages, including crawling to his or her mother's breast and nursing. As the Sacred Hour ends, the little one falls into a restful sleep.

What to Expect

In a typical vaginal delivery, the Sacred Hour will begin directly after birth. Your chest will be bare and baby will be placed on your tummy, naked and not wrapped. You and your baby will be covered with a blanket with baby's head out. If there is a medical reason that keeps you from immediate skin to skin, it may be started as soon as possible.

In a planned or non-emergent cesarean section you will be offered the option of having the skin to skin and bonding experience in the operating room. After a brief assessment, if both you and the baby are doing well, the baby will be placed on your chest with the assistance of a nurse. As your cesarean section concludes, your baby will be taken to the nursery but will rejoin you as soon as possible.

Baby's Nine Instinctive Stages

1. The Birth Cry
A distinctive cry that occurs as the baby's lungs expand for the first time.

2. Relaxation
After the birth cry stops, the mouth and hands become relaxed. The baby should be skin to skin with the mother, and have some mouth activity.

3. Awakening
Usually starts around 3 minutes after birth. The baby may open his or her eyes, move their and shoulders and show some mouth activity.

4. Activity
Usually begins around 8 minutes after birth. During this stage, your newborn could:

  • Keep eyes open
  • Look at the breast
  • Salivate (dampen mother's skin)
  • Root by moving his or her mouth from side to side by rubbing the cheek against mother's chest
  • Exhibit high rooting by lifting part of the torso from mother's chest
  • Bring hand to his or her mouth
  • Move his or her hand to the mother's breast and back to the mouth
  • Stick out tongue
  • Look at mother
  • Massage mother's breast with one or both hands


5. Rest
The Baby may have periods of resting at any point throughout the first hour.

6. Crawling
Usually begins around 35 minutes after birth. The baby will move his or her way to the breast by crawling (sometimes while also pushing and rooting) or leaping through sliding (sometimes while also rooting and questing).

7. Familiarization
Usually begins around 45 minutes after birth, lasting around 20 minutes. During this stage, your newborn could:

  • Touch and/or massage mother's breast
  • Lick mother's breast and/or nipple
  • Look at mother
  • Make sounds
  • Mouth his or her hand
  • Stick out tongue
  • Move his or her hand from mother to mother's breast
  • Look at other people


8. Suckling
About an hour after birth the newborn should take the nipple, self-attach and suckle. It may take more time with the baby skin to skin to complete the previous stages if the mother has had medication for pain or an epidural.

9. Sleep
Baby, and sometimes mother, may fall into a restful sleep about 1 1/2 to 2 hours after birth.

Benefits

  • Babies are warmer after birth
  • Babies are much calmer and cry less
  • Babies breathe easier and have more normal heart rates
  • Mothers have higher levels of relaxation hormones
  • Mothers and babies get to know each other sooner
  • Babies can latch onto the breast all by themselves
  • Milk supply can be improved
  • Mothers and babies are more successful with breastfeeding and tend to breastfeed longer


Family Participation

The first hour after birth is a special time when the new baby and parents become a family. You can honor and support this by:

  • Leaving mother and baby skin to skin (uninterrupted) until after the first breastfeeding
  • Keep the room quiet and calm so baby can hear mostly the parent's voices
  • Enjoy watching baby's amazing, natural, and instinctive feeding behaviors


Resources

The Magical Hour