Getting to Know Your Baby
The Golden Hour is a bonding time for you and your baby. It is a once-in-a-lifetime event and needs to be celebrated!
It is the first time mommy and baby get to meet and is full of laughter and tears, “oohs and ahs,” and the counting of fingers and toes. It is important for you to have this Golden Hour with your baby to bond. We encourage you to wait until after this time to introduce your baby to family and friends.
During the Golden Hour, your nurse will hang a sign outside your door to encourage visitors to allow private bonding and feeding time for you and your baby. They will be asked to return later.
We promote skin-to-skin in the first hours and days of your baby’s life to help the two of you get to know each other better. Studies show that the mother-child bond is critical for your baby’s ongoing growth and development.1 Skin-to-skin can have the following benefits:
- Regulates temperature2
- Reduces stress for mom and baby3
- Improves relaxation3
- Teaches recognition of cues4
This bonding time is one of the best ways to learn about your baby and begin the important process of connecting with your newborn.
Parents have always loved touching and stroking their babies, and babies love to be soothed and cuddled. Part of a baby’s emotional and neurologic development comes from the interactions of touch and feelings of security it offers. Other cultures have long practiced infant massage—a technique of stroking and gently rubbing the baby’s limbs. Proponents of infant massage believe it:
- Relieves stress for parents and babies, which can help with sleep.5
- Provides one-on-one time for bonding and communication.5
- Increases parent confidence and sensitivity to a baby’s signals/cues.5
- Stimulates growth and development.5
- Helps with symptoms of colic.6
Some evidence shows that massage of premature infants may increase weight gain and help with neurological development.5 Certified infant massage therapists often offer classes to teach techniques in infant massage. However, many parents find that spending time with their baby helps them learn how to stroke and cuddle in ways that baby and parents both prefer.
After months of waiting and dreaming, it is exciting when your baby is finally born. But it takes time and effort for parents to get to know their newborn and time for the newborn to adjust to the new world.
Getting to know your new baby is part of a fascinating but relatively simple process called bonding, in which you essentially “fall in love” with each other. Although bonding is a natural process, it sometimes takes effort. Some ways to help make this process easier include “rooming in” at the hospital with your baby and techniques such as infant massage.
When they learn they are expecting a baby, bonding begins for many parents. This is an ongoing process of intimacy, understanding, and nurturing that is part of falling in love with their baby.
It was once thought that bonding occurred as a distinct time frame immediately after birth when the baby was held in the mother’s arms, and eye contact was established. However, bonding has been identified more as a process, not an event.
Parents see their babies earlier than ever before with more frequent ultrasound examinations. This seems to enhance bonding during pregnancy. The kicks and movements of the baby during pregnancy are also ways that a mother and father bond with the baby. Bonding continues when the baby is born, and the parents and baby spend time getting to know each other.
As a process, bonding is not “missed out on” if a baby needs to leave the mother’s side for special care. Bonding may be different for mothers than for fathers. And some mothers may react differently than other mothers. Some mothers feel an immediate deep emotional bond at first sight, while others find their feelings develop more slowly as they spend time with the baby. Babies do not “forget” parents if separated from them at first. They show a unique preference for a mother’s smell and voice.7
Bonding at Home
There are several ways to help you and your baby continue the process of bonding and falling in love with each other.
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to bond with your baby. In addition to the nourishment it provides, breastfeeding gives mother and baby closeness and skin-to-skin contact consistently. This helps both get to know each other more intimately.8
Carrying a baby in a sling is another method of continuing to bond. This is often a helpful technique for fussy or high-need babies. However, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and always keep the baby’s mouth and nose clear to prevent suffocation. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends extreme caution when using a sling for a baby under four months of age.9 Keep the baby’s face visible and frequently check on the baby while using the device.