Doulas and The Golden Hour
The first hour of your baby’s life is often referred to as “The Golden Hour” because of the importance of maternal-infant bonding right after birth. Having a doula can be a great way to protect this special time. A doula’s job is to offer emotional support, physical comfort, and assistance in obtaining information. During prenatal visits a doula will help you envision your Golden Hour and how you would like this immediate postpartum period to look.
Certainly, a great reason to have a doula is to ensure your preferences for this period are communicated to the hospital staff, but here are 5 other things a doula can do during this transition that you may not have thought of:
1. A doula is encouraging.
It is pretty common for a new mom to feel a full array of emotions all at the same time: extreme joy, concern, relief, disbelief, excitement and awe. Sometimes a mom will feel exhausted after the hard work of labor, but more often she experiences a rush of adrenaline and renewed energy. A doula can be there to reassure you that these feelings are normal and that “You did it! Your baby is here!”
2. A doula helps keep the focus on the MotherBaby dyad.
I was first introduced to the idea of a MotherBaby dyad in a breastfeeding course. The definition of a dyad is, “a group of two people, the smallest social group’ and “two persons involved in an ongoing relationship or interaction”. It is easier to recognize the dyad during pregnancy- which is the epitome of “two persons involved in an ongoing relationship or interaction.” But birth is not just the process of moving a baby from inside of a mom to the outside. It is a transition for the dyad and the best way for this transition to occur is with mom and baby as close as possible. Evidence shows that this immediate skin-to-skin contact stabilizes and regulates baby’s body temperature, blood sugar levels, breathing, and heart rate. Also, having baby placed on mom’s chest will stimulate mom’s uterus to contract and aids in delivery of the placenta and controlling postpartum bleeding. Most hospitals (especially baby-friendly ones!) have responded to this evidence and try to ensure early skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby. Even so, hospital staff have to focus on the separate clinical assessments of mom and baby. But a doula, not having to worry about clinical care, is free to view mom and baby as one and care for them as such.
3. Doulas recognize that you are the expert when it comes to caring for your baby.
The most qualified person in the room to care for that new baby is not the doula, or the care provider, or the nurse- it is the mom. Her baby has instincts and is capable of communicating their needs to her and she has the ability to listen to and respond to her baby. Babies left alone on mom’s chest for an hour typically self latch, nurse better, and for a longer duration of time than other babies. A doula understands that by not interfering with mom and baby during this time but instead offering information on a newborn’s cues and capabilities, mothers experience increased confidence in their mothering, are more responsive to their babies, and have a more positive perception of their infants (Nugent, Petrauskas & Brazelton, 2009).
4. Fewer interventions during labor/delivery can mean fewer interruptions during the Golden Hour.
Research shows that the presence of a doula can lower instances of regional analgesia, anesthesia, vacuum or forceps-assisted deliveries, and cesareans. If we can lower the instance of interventions that may add discomfort to mom or baby, cause mom or baby to be drowsy or disorientated, or impact baby’s ability to latch on or suckle than we can offer mom and baby an easier transition from pregnancy to parenthood. Sometimes these interventions are medically indicated, beneficial, and necessary. In those cases, a doula still recognizes the importance of the Golden Hour and can help facilitate moms and babies being together as soon as possible. In the rare times that mothers and babies cannot be together, a doula can be an invaluable support during what very well can be an upsetting time. She can help ensure you have access to resources such as a breastpump, a lactation consultant, support groups, and information on relevant topics such as kangaroo care.
5. A doula can attend to the “little things” so you and your partner can focus on your new family.
Whether it is grabbing bags out of the car, requesting warm blankets for you and baby, or locating a meal for you or your spouse; your doula will be happy to attend to all of those “little things” so that you and your partner can spend that time bonding with your new baby.