Knowing what to expect in the first hour after having a baby can help smooth your transition from “pregnant” to “new mom.” There aren’t many moments in life that can compare to the first moments after baby arrives. Emotions can be high, the room can fill with activity, and parents and baby start exploring the first breaths together after so many months of anticipation. It’s already a time of great unknowns – let’s eliminate a few if we can! Here are a few things you might experience or expect in the first hour after baby’s birth.
Get skin to skin
If possible, it’s likely that your nurse, labor support doula, or others helping with delivery will immediately introduce skin-to-skin contact for mother and baby. This usually means baby will lay on mom’s chest as they meet each other for the first time. This contact is important for stabilizing baby’s body temperature, regulating breathing and heart rate, transferring good bacteria, and satisfying some of our most primal natures – like any animals, the first moments of life are usually spent with mother. The more immediately baby and mom can start snuggling and the more frequently they can be together like this in the first several months of baby’s life, the stronger the bond and even the health benefits can be.
If skin-to-skin isn’t possible as baby’s brought to an incubator, it’s a great opportunity for a partner to follow along, becoming a presence alongside baby and narrating the experience back to mother, reinforcing the family bond.
The placenta and umbilical cord
The placenta will usually be delivered within the first hour, sometimes with help from your practitioner. They’ll likely make sure it’s intact once it’s delivered, and have a look inside the uterus if it isn’t in order to remove any fragments. When the umbilical cord has stopped pulsing – so it’s no longer doing its job of transporting fluids and nutrients between mother and baby – your practitioner may clamp the cord and cut it free. Sometimes they’ll invite you or your partner to make the cut. During all of this, keep snuggling and cuddling skin to skin with baby, and invite your partner to lay gentle hands on baby and be part of the experience together.
Replenish and renew
Eat! Drink! There’s been a lot going on, and you’ll need to recharge. Drink some water and get a snack so you stay healthy and as comfortable as possible. You might be famished – or you might be so caught up in emotions and your body’s natural and complex chemical reactions that you forget to eat. Take a few minutes for some mindful breaths, moments of gratitude, and hey, maybe a turkey sandwich. Don’t forget your partner might need to refuel too!
Baby’s hungry too!
Near the end of the first hour, baby will have finished clearing fluids and might start showing some hunger signs like rooting or smacking their lips. This is a great time to start breastfeeding or bottle feeding, and your labor support doula or nurse can help navigate these first few attempts. Be patient as you and baby discover this process together.
Every birth location and provider will have different standard protocols and procedures, you will need to talk with your provider during prenatal visits to find out what to expect where you are giving birth. Some of the most common things are: Following delivery, Pitocin will be administered by IV or a shot to support the uterus shrinking back down, this is to help prevent postpartum blood loss. For the newborn: a Vitamin K shot is offered to promote blood clotting, Erythromycin eye ointment for specific sexually transmitted diseases, and Hepatitis B shot
Research what’s right for you and baby – we recommend the CDC and Evidence Based Birth as trustworthy resources – and talk with your pediatrician and midwife/OB. Communicate your preferences to your labor support doula and labor & delivery nurse so you’re getting the support you need and expect.
Finally, rest. You, your body, and your baby have been through a lot. Your nurse or labor support doula might offer to care for the baby so you can get some uninterrupted sleep, or you and baby can have quiet time together. Your adventure together has only just begun, so recharge in the quiet moments you can.