When my children were born, they were immediately put into my arms. But only minutes later, they were taken away to be cleaned, weighed, measured and handed off to one of the many family members who'd been patiently waiting in the wings to meet them. I'd never heard of the term "golden hour," nor did I have any clue that this time could have made breastfeeding my children a lot easier. Today, moms have more information at their fingertips, and are encouraged to ask their doctors important questions such as, "how does the golden hour help establish breastfeeding and encourage the bond with my baby?"
The golden hour is the first 60 minutes after childbirth, when it is most important for a mother to hold her baby, bare skin to bare skin. In her article for The Journal of Perinatal Education, registered nurse and IBCLC Jeannette T. Crenshaw wrote that mothers and babies should have immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact after childbirth. In the piece, Crenshaw noted that babies are born with a heightened response that, when immediately placed on their mother's chest, stimulates behaviors that help to meet their basic biological needs as well as reduces their stress. Similarly, the World Heath Organization (WHO) explained that infants who had early skin-to-skin contact with their mothers also appear to interact more with their mothers and cry less.
In addition to bonding and stress reduction, WHO noted that early skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby helps to initiate early breastfeeding, and increases the likelihood that the mother will be able to exclusively breastfeed for up to four months of life, as well as increases how long she will continue to breastfeed overall.
According to Belly Belly, babies that are placed skin-to-skin with their mothers, haven't been exposed to medications, and are left undisturbed may instinctively crawl to their mother’s breast and attach themselves to the nipple. This is known as the "breast crawl" and can help establish breastfeeding. Babies who self-attach tend to have proper tongue positioning when latching, as well. A good latch can prevent many of the issues breastfeeding moms and babies face.
Finally, La Leche League Canada noted that skin-to-skin contact during the golden hour increases the level of prolactin your body produces. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for helping your body to make milk. Even moms who may be unable to feed their baby directly at the breast (due to prematurity or illness) will create more milk to hand express or pump if they spend skin-to-skin time with their baby.