The Golden Hour after Birth and Why You Should Protect it at all Costs

Trish ~ Labor Nurse Mama
March 22, 2019

Why is the Golden Hour after Birth a popular buzz term if you will? And why are hospitals scrambling to change the culture of their labor and delivery units to cater to this “new” trend?

I will tell you why. It's because it's the absolute best thing for you and your baby. In this post, I am going to begin by giving you a glimpse into what is happening inside your baby before birth and immediately after.

Why I am here and who I am:

Hey mama, I am Trish— AKA Labor Nurse Mama. I am a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6. This means I am quite familiar with the postpartum period and how to navigate it. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confident Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes and the mama expert inside our Calm Mama Society, a pregnancy & postpartum membership community! I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey! You can find me over on IG teaching over 230k mamas daily. I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey!

We make a small commission from some of the links (you don’t pay any more for using our links); however some of the recommendations, we do not earn anything; we love ’em and want you to know about them. Click here for our full disclosure. Thank you!

The birth of a newborn is a miraculous event.

I am one of the fortunate people who get to participate in birth, and I get paid. I mean how cool is that?

Something I have come to realize is that many people are unaware of the miracle of a newborn and the importance of the golden hour after birth. When I am sharing what happens in the baby at birth, I become overly passionate. I mean like, hyped up!!

It reminds me of God's greatness and the astounding fact that we go from a liquid life, receiving oxygen from the momma via the placenta, to breathing air within seconds.

Have you ever sat down and pondered that fact? Take a second and mull that over.

Okay, you ready for the deets?

It’s truly astounding.

I don't know if you believe in God, but you have to believe in the miracle of birth. Each birth I attend (which is many) is a reminder to me that God is perfect.

Read these Articles ASAP:

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The Baby’s heart

The oxygenated blood flows from the mom into the placenta. It then travels from the placenta through the umbilical cord to the baby’s liver. From there it moves through the ductus venosus, one of the three shunts in the fetal circulatory system. (A shunt is like a little passage that pushes the blood needing oxygen to a place that will supply it with some)

The reason for or purpose of the three fetal shunts is to bypass the liver and the lungs. Both of which, we need to live life on the outside of the womb but not while inside the womb.

The liver, which filters out the junk in our bodies, is not utilized yet.  The umbilical cord carries its waste products and carbon dioxide back to momma, who then gets rid of it.

Foramen Ovale

The shunt that bypasses the lungs is called the foramen ovale. It moves blood through the heart from the right atrium to the left atrium.


At birth, we clamp the umbilical cord, and the baby is cut off from the mom's supply of oxygen and nutrients. The baby's body begins its rapid change or transition.

With the first breaths of life, the lungs start to expand. As the lungs expand, the fluid inside the lungs (the alveoli) is cleared out. The Baby's blood pressure increases and the pressure in the lungs decreases; causing the shunts to close.

The baby then begins to breathe air.

The change in the pressure also closes the Foramen Ovale and boom the baby is pumping its oxygenated blood throughout its body. The sweet baby no longer depends on the mom for this process.

Are you bored?

If you are, then wait for it. I wanted to lay the groundwork for what is happening inside the baby as it is born. It's something to be aware of and so worthy of respect.

And it is essential to understand why everyone in the birthing room should respect the process and allow it to unfold naturally.

All these crazy things happen in the few moments after the first breath and before you gaze into your babies eyes.

Thus begins the golden hour after birth and girl, no matter what, your child needs for you to defend it

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What happens next?

Ok, so everyone who knows me, knows that I am all about minimal interruptions in the natural process of labor and during the golden hour after birth.

Having a baby is not a hospital procedure; IT'S BIRTH PEOPLE and birth is NATURAL. You ain't going in to get a gallbladder removed.

As if all the shunts and shutting isn't crazy enough, some crazy BLEEP happens after the baby is born.

Did you know that after the birth of a newborn, if placed immediately on the mother's stomach, the baby can crawl up to the breast?

It is miraculous to watch.

I'm not sure why we think that the only mammal capable of building empires, could not do something as simple as crawl to its food source, but most people doubt it. Maybe it's because the majority of you guys had intervention after intervention in your labor room. Sorry, I have unwittingly been a part of that faux pas.

Before we get into the details of the BEAUTY of what happens between mother and child during the golden hour. Watch this video.

Watch as these Babies latch themselves to the breast!

What if governments had a proven, cost-effective way to save babies’ lives, reduce rates of malnutrition, support children’s health, increase educational attainment and grow productivity? They do: It’s called breastfeeding. And it is one of the best investments nations can make in the lives and futures of their youngest members – and in the long-term strength of their societies. – Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director

The Newborn Breast Crawl

Ok, granted the crawl isn't immediate and quick. It's like a long romance between mother and child. It usually occurs soon after birth. Like all other mammals, newborn babies use their senses to find the boob. The senses combined contribute to our instinct to survive outside the womb.

Olfactory (little nose) ~ Visual (little eyes)  ~ Taste (little tongue) ~ Auditory (your voice) ~ Touch (from them to you and you to them) All these things are vital to a successful golden hour after birth.

And guess who provides every one of these for the baby?


You are the one who brings all these needs to the table. Your smell, your face, your voice, and your touch meets every one of this new little human's needs.

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The Sense of Smell

Let's talk about the olfactory sense first; this is one of the most influential factors during the immediate skin to skin moments.

I read this study that said the mother's hands getting involved in birth, also lends to the success of skin to skin, and the breast crawl of the newborn. When momma gets her hands on the baby as it comes out, she also gets amniotic fluid on them as well.

The fluid then gets onto her stomach and breast.

The baby is keen to follow that smell. However, they can also smell the natural “smell” of your breast and follow that as well. No clean boobies here ladies. Come on we all know that sweaty breasts have a smell. Lol!

Your baby likes a stinky boob smell.

Pro tip: don't wash your boobs off after birth until later. Especially during the golden hour after birth.

Ok, so the baby comes out, we put the baby directly on your abdomen. Left alone, the baby will smell your breast, then begin to do an army crawl up your body and find your nipple and latch on themselves. Hands-off and watch!

LABOR NURSE, I know a few of you are reading this, and you are thinking well, this will take too long and interfere with my job. It's not about us. That's my mantra. I love you and I know we have a lot to chart and even more to do but we have to protect the golden hour after birth like the world depends upon it. We are the gatekeeper. We can make or break her experience. 

The Sense of Sight

What can your little sweetheart see? Babies can see objects if they are within 8-10 inches of their eyes. Babies prefer to look at a face.

A baby placed on his mother will find her face and gaze into her eyes. I wish I could describe this process adequately. I'm not sure I can put to words what I want you guys to hear about this gaze between a mother and her child. It's too big for words.

Something magical happens between the two of them and the rest of us (sorry dads) fade into the blur of the room.

This past Sunday my pastor taught about the gaze of a mother on her child and how the baby was intently gazing back because of the love in the mother's eyes. But I would take it further and say, the infant is staring into the mother as intently as the mother is gazing into her because the baby recognizes her as someone she knows.

This interlocking of gazes is a beautiful moment to behold. Each as intense as the other, an innate sense of knowing one another.

Pro tip: Ask for your lights to be dimmed as soon as possible.

One of most favorite things to do in my labor room is to quickly clean up mom's bed, put everything back together, and dim the lights. The baby will almost immediately open those little eyes and look around.

Can you imagine coming out of a perfectly cozy, darkened closet into the bright lights of a delivery room? No, me either!

The Sense of Sound

The soothing sound of its mother's voice, along with touch and smell,  is often enough to calm a startled newborn instantly. The mother's voice is familiar and comforting as the baby has listened to this particular sound for months.

Momma, start to murmur to your newborn as they lay skin to skin on top of you. Tell your child all the hopes and dreams you have for them. Assure her that all is well and that you are there.

Tips: Protect your golden hour after birth by asking everyone to whisper and keep the room calm.

The Sense of Touch

The need for touch is met merely by being placed on top of you. Skin to skin and your hand/ dad's hand on the baby is soothing and comforting to this baby.

The warm feel of your skin and touch of your hand helps to transition the baby to this world. When I place a baby, who is breathing fast onto mom, most time, they immediately begin to regulate their breathing and decrease the need for me to intervene. How cool is that?


This one might sting a bit. Keep your labor room to your self after delivery. It's okay to even ask your birth coaches (other than the primary one) to head to the waiting room. While you celebrate the golden hour after birth with your honey and your baby.

I promise it won't kill Aunt Sally to see the baby at one hour and six minutes as opposed to immediately after birth. Those minutes are essential to your baby adjusting and to the success of the breastfeeding experience.

Pro tip: Ask your labor nurse to be the bad guy. She can tell family and friends that she has to clean you and the room up. Inform them that daddy will come out to get everyone after the nurse is finished. 

Then she can take, oh say, an hour to clean up! 

Key Take-Aways:
    • Understand what is happening in your baby's body at birth! Know your stuff girl!
    • Research the Birth Crawl and watch the video above.
    • The sense of smell, sound, sight, and touch are critical factors to a successful Golden hour!
    • Your boob doesn't need to be washed. Think birth boob!
    • Gaze into your baby's eyes!
    • Ask for the people in the room to speak softly, and you talk to the baby.
    • Have your nurse dim the lights.
    • Keep your hands on your baby and your baby on you!
    • Limit Visitors until after the golden hour is over.
    • If you are having a cesarean, be sure to read my tips.

Okay, my friends, this was a long one but so important. Sometimes when I write a post, it is eh, alright. However, there are other times like this one, when something inside of me flows out. So I hope you loved this information as much as I do.

Please consider sharing so that all women can be informed and empowered to stand up and fight for the golden hour after birth!

Share your experiences in the comments!

Just a little Disclaimer: As always, I am just writing my thoughts and what I’ve learned along the way. Although I am in fact a labor and delivery RN, This is not medical advice. You should always seek and follow the advice of your care provider.

This post may contain some affiliate links (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Thank you! For our full disclosure read here)


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