Experts call the first 60 minutes after a baby is born the golden hour.
Ideally, mother and baby can spend it skin-to-skin, with baby nestled onto mama’s chest.
It helps stabilize the newborn’s breathing and body temperature, promotes bonding and lays the groundwork for breastfeeding.
“We try not to intervene with that natural process,” Ruth Mulder, CNM, a certified nurse midwife with Corewell Health’s Spectrum Health Medical Group Obstetrics and Gynecology, said.
Allowing time for that skin-to-skin contact—immediately after birth and beyond—is just one of the ways providers with Corewell Health women’s and infant services help moms who want to breastfeed get off to a good start.
Corewell Health has adopted a baby-friendly model of care, which focuses on the importance of breastfeeding, quiet time and that crucial skin-to-skin time.
This work has even allowed Corewell Health’s Butterworth Hospital, Corewell Health’s United Hospital and Corewell Health’s Zeeland Community Hospital to earn a baby-friendly designation in 2014 from Baby-Friendly USA, Inc., an initiative of the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
During the golden hour, Mulder said babies are not whisked away for routine medical procedures that can easily be done later. Nurses and other medical providers encourage an uninterrupted hour of skin-to-skin time whenever possible.
Nurses work with moms to get the baby to latch on for breastfeeding within the first hour or two, allowing the baby to take in the nutrient-dense colostrum that helps build a newborn’s immune system, Mulder said.
She tries to be very positive with overwhelmed new moms, encouraging them with her words.
“Just the things we say can make a difference,” Mulder said. “In that first hour of life, when the mom and baby are doing skin-to-skin, we can say, ‘Look, your baby is so alert. He’s already showing signs he’s ready to nurse.’ We want to support a mom’s inner knowledge, saying, ‘You know what to do. You’re going to get it.’”
Mulder said another important practice, called “rooming in,” is helpful for a positive breastfeeding experience.
Instead of automatically having baby taken to the nursery at night, babies can stay in the same post-partum hospital room as the mother.
The practice helps mothers learn their baby’s early feeding cues, and moms gain confidence in caring for baby. It also boosts bonding in more opportunities for skin-to-skin contact.
“The first three months of the baby’s life is sometimes called the fourth trimester,” Mulder said. “The baby is adjusting to life outside the mother’s body and it’s normal for them to want to be held all the time. They were just held by you 24/7.”
That said, the nursery is also there to support exhausted mothers, particularly those who might have had a very difficult labor experience, Mulder said.
Just as you would get support at home from friends and family when you need to sleep, the same is available in the hospital.
Mothers can also rest assured that nurses will not give the baby formula or a pacifier without first asking the mother, Mulder said.
After birth, a lactation consultant visits new moms in the hospital within the first 24 hours, answering questions and offering help such as checking the baby’s latch, Mulder said.
There’s also support outside the hospital, both before childbirth and after.
Prep in pregnancy
Mulder encourages moms who wish to breastfeed to attend a breastfeeding class during their pregnancy.
A certified lactation specialist covers breastfeeding basics, including the benefits of breastfeeding, how to position the baby while breastfeeding, proper latching, pumping and breast milk storage, how to tell if your baby is getting enough to eat and more.
Parents may register for a breastfeeding class held either virtually or in person in Grand Rapids or Zeeland. Corewell Health in East Michigan also offers virtual breastfeeding classes.
Once mother and baby leave the hospital, there’s also support available.
Mulder said Corewell Health offers a “warm line” where mothers can call to speak with a lactation consultant. They can also schedule a virtual or in-person visit. The number is 616.391.9437.
Finally, Corewell Health offers free, in-person breastfeeding support groups once a week in Zeeland and three times a week in Grand Rapids. Mulder said other support groups are also available in the community.
She said the community that grows within these groups is invaluable.
“Going there just to see other women who are nursing and can say, ‘Oh my baby did that, too,’” Mulder said. “That can be really powerful.”
She encourages mothers to go at least once while they are pregnant to see where the group meets, learn where to park, etc. That way it’s not so daunting to go the first time with a newborn.
And it’s not just for first-time moms.
“A lot of times if people struggle the first time, they can still have a wonderfully successful breastfeeding experience with their second baby,” she said. “Every newborn is different.”