Reading Time: 3 minutes
After 40 weeks of watching her tummy grow and feeling her baby’s kicks, Shreya was ecstatic when her baby was handed over. Holding her baby for the first time was the most precious moment. The difficult part was over. Now, all she wanted was to be able to breastfeed her baby within the Golden Hour. This was the beginning of a beautiful chapter.
What is the Golden Hour?
The Golden Hour refers to the first hour of a baby’s postnatal life. Steps taken in these initial 60 minutes of a baby’s life can have immediate and long-term benefits. It also plays a crucial role in minimizing complications, especially in the case of premature babies. For the mother, this is when she should be able to have skin-to-skin contact with her baby and breastfeed her for the first time.
Breastmilk is the best food for your baby and the first expression or colostrum can give your baby benefits that last a lifetime. Colostrum is easy to digest, packed with proteins and acts as a laxative to prevent jaundice by helping your baby excrete bilirubin. It also introduces the right kind of gut bacteria to the baby’s stomach and lays the foundation for a strong immune system. The nutrition provided by breastmilk cannot be compared to any commercially available infant formula.
The process of birthing marks a major change for the baby. From the warm confines of the mother’s womb, she is suddenly exposed to a much different world with sounds, lights which keep her awake and alert. However, this will not last very long as newborn babies are low on energy and thus sleep for a large part of the day.
Trying to get a sleepy baby to latch onto a breast for the first time can be frustrating both for the mother and baby. But, within the golden hour, the baby will have a higher tendency to latch on naturally.
Breastfeeding newborn babies also has benefits for the mother. Just after birth, colostrum which is a thick, yellowish fluid marks the beginning of lactation. It may take a few hours or a day or two for the breastmilk to stabilize (let down reflex). The sooner a baby starts nursing, the earlier and more comfortably this will happen. Thus, breastfeeding in the golden hour sets a strong foundation for the mother and baby’s unique bonding in the future.
Rising Above Outdated Practices
In many parts of the world, cultural norms direct new parents to give their infants certain foods and liquids other than breast milk during the Golden Hour. This may include things like sweetened water and honey. In countries like India, colostrum is considered bad and discarded. There is no scientific evidence to back these claims and following such traditions may in fact harm the baby. Do not feed your baby anything other than breastmilk during the first hour of his life.
What If a Mother Cannot Breastfeed?
Every mother knows that breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for newborns, but it may not always be easy to breastfeed a baby. The first breastfeeding experience is a learning experience for both the mother and baby. While some babies latch on instantly, others may show little interest in nursing. These responses are normal, and the key is patience and persistence. Many hospitals have lactation consultants who can help mothers teach various breastfeeding techniques to feed their babies.
In some cases, a mother may not be able to express enough breast milk to fulfill her baby’s needs. This is quite common and not something to worry about too much. Whatever colostrum is produced should be given to the baby. If milk production does not increase on its own within 2-3 days, the doctor may advise pasteurized donor human milk. This gives more time for the mother to relax, which helps in the let down reflex. Indeed, stress is one of the major reasons why many mothers are unable to breastfeed their baby completely.
Formula is Not a healthy Alternative
Infant formula is not advisable for newborns as it is difficult for the baby to digest and not as nutrient-rich as compared to mother’s milk. If a mother is unable to produce sufficient breast milk on her own, turning towards pasteurized human milk is a better choice. This is milk donated by other mothers which is screened and pasteurized as per quality guidelines. All international regulatory health bodies recommend that in absence of mother’s own milk, pasteurized donor human milk as the next best thing.
The joy of being able to breastfeed her baby in the Golden Hour cemented Shreya’s determination to breastfeed her baby for the next year and half. Her baby grew up to be healthy and strong and a lot of the credit for this goes to that first feed of human milk.