The importance of the final stage of the birth experience - those magical hours immediately after delivery - is huge. Ensuring that you get quality time with your new born, as well as having the medical necessities taken care of, can have far-reaching consequences, so it’s best to go into the labour room knowing what your preferences are. Here’s some of the top issues to consider…
Read more: How to choose your birth hospital in the UAE
Skin to skin and the golden hour
Straight after birth, the time known as the Golden Hour is vital for everything from bonding to breastfeeding, and recent research advocates for as much uninterrupted time for mum and baby as possible. This is when skin-on-skin snuggling is said to reap enormous benefits, allowing the baby to settle into the outside world while safely held close by mamma, comforted by the smells and sounds which are familiar. Yet some hospital practices still see mothers and babies separated for routine procedures such as cleaning and measuring, which could be delayed to allow that special bond to develop in the first hour.
Instead, experts agree babies should be placed tummy-down on their mother’s stomach straight away, with nothing more than a warm blanket over both mum and little one. The benefits of this can range from improved breastfeeding outcomes, vital bonding, regulation of the newborn’s temperature aided by mum’s heat and the promotion of delayed cord clamping.
For Malin Ghavami, a midwife with Dubai-based Nightingale Health Services, the benefits of The Golden Hour are undeniable, she says: “During the first hour after birth the baby is more alert than ever due to all the adrenalin from birth, this is very beneficial for initialising breastfeeding, while skin to skin directly after birth helps promotes bonding between mother and baby.”
It’s this uninterrupted approach, and an emphasis on keeping mum and baby together in the most natural setting possible, that has seen the practice of taking healthy newborns away from their mothers and into hospital nurseries massively decline. However some hospitals still routinely do this, as well as offer formula to babies while mums are trying to establish nursing, and it’s well worth making it clear your preferences on this in your birth plan.
Ghavami feels passionate about the benefits of keeping mum and baby together, she says: “A newborn baby needs a lot of comfort during the first days and even months, skin to skin is highly recommended to keep the baby calm, settled and secure.
“How can the baby know where to look for food if taken to another room? In Sweden we stopped with baby nurseries in the hospital a long time ago, there are simply no positives I can think of when it comes to keeping the baby away from the mother and father.”
La La Langtry White, a Dubai based doula who works with the newly launched Little Feather Doula Collective, agrees that the sacred fourth stage of labour is a crucial time.
She says: “The fourth stage of labour is recovery and that first golden hour after birth is something you cannot get back. We know that it is enormously beneficial, where possible, to allow uninterrupted skin to skin time on the mothers bare chest. This is the place that most resembles life in the womb that babies have been used to; they can hear mum’s heartbeat, feel the warmth of her body, it helps stimulate the baby’s immune system, digestive system, nervous system, breathing rate and oxygen saturation. All incredibly valuable processes that take far longer if the baby is separated from the mother.
“Just like during birth, keeping this time quiet, uninterrupted, with dim lighting all help reduce adrenaline which may inhibit uterine contractions and help facilitate important physiological and hormonal changes as the mother herself is born.”
Washing your newborn
While we’re used to seeing pristine newborn babies in movies, in reality they come out covered in birth-related gunk. But this isn’t something that has to be washed off straight away – the latest research tells us that washing babies after birth should actually be avoided so as to keep the vernix membrane they are born with intact, allowing nature’s moisturiser to soak into their skin and help protect against infection.
After those first few unforgettable hours, and in the day that follows, medical teams will carry out a series of checks on your little one, making sure everything from hearing to motor functions are okay, and looking out for any issues which can affect newborns such as jaundice. Keep in mind that it’s your right to be present for any checks on baby, and you could even question whether you want vaccinations administered, which at this stage are usually BCG and Hepatitis B – vaccines it’s worth noting are recommended by WHO at this age.
It’s also important that babies receive Vitamin K, which they are born deficient in, but need in order to fend against any blood loss. However, most parents aren’t aware you can opt to give this orally, rather than giving baby another injection, and this is again something you should speak up about if it’s your preference based on your research.
And for Langtry-White, it’s research and being prepared that can make an enormous difference to every stage of labour.
She says: “I think it is vital that all women take an active role in their pregnancy and make choices that are right for them about their care during pregnancy and birth. I often hear women who are nervous about speaking up to their doctor but that relationship must be one built on a mutual trust.
“Equally we live in a culture where social media opinion plays an enormous role in our choices, from grocery shopping to medical care, and it is important that couples recognise the difference between opinion and informed, evidence-based research.
She adds: “Prioritise your antenatal education! Choose the right places to source your information from so that you select evidence based research rather than speculation or opinion. The NICE guidelines are a great source of information about the antenatal care you might expect to receive. Antenatal and birth and parenting preparation classes are a fast track way to accessing lots of concise and collated information to help you decide what is right for you, your pregnancy and your baby.”
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