Your baby has arrived! Congratulations! However you gave birth, the moment you meet your baby has finally come. This is the exciting moment you have been waiting for. It is worth planning for the first moments when your baby comes into the world and meets you.

Your baby has spent 9 months in a warm bath at a constant temperature, with food and drink on tap. Your baby will need to breath air for the first time, adapt to the cool air, and get ready for a first feed. It's a lot! And as long as you are both well, lying in skin contact with you is the safest place for your baby while adapting to life outside the womb.

The first hour after you give birth is known as the golden hour and this is the best time to enjoy some skin-to-skin contact, feed your baby for the first time, and study those beautiful features. If you wish, you can usually request that this first hour is ‘protected’ and any checks for your baby are done after this time. If that’s your preference, make sure you note this down on your birth plan.

The golden hour might not always be possible if your baby needs extra help when he or she is born. In this case, discuss how soon you can have skin to skin with your baby.

You may not have paid it much attention as your baby was being born, but if you have had a vaginal birth, you will need to birth the placenta. Whilst it’s not as attention-grabbing as the baby's arrival, the birth of the placenta is very important. See Stages of Labour - Third Stage to find out more

Holding your baby’s bare skin against your own bare skin is a wonderful way to help them (and you) recover from birth and increase the production of some important hormones. Make sure that you and baby are kept warm using blankets, ensuring your baby’s nose and mouth are free and clear. This contact helps your baby to cope with the temperature change for the womb to the room.

Skin to skin is a great way to bond and if your birth partner would like to have skin to skin time too, it’s a good way for you to be able to get some rest or a shower. If you’re breastfeeding, skin to skin can help you with milk production and help steady your baby’s breathing. Skin to skin contact can also help your baby to regulate their heart rate and temperature. 

Once the placenta is out, your midwife will ask to check your genital area for any injuries from the birth. Most tears are not serious and heal without any problems. You will be offered stitches for deeper cuts or tears. While this is happening, you may wish to keep your baby in skin to skin, or you may feel more comfortable with your birth partner holding the baby for these steps. You can also use pain relief during this stage.

Look at Tears and Stitches for more information.

It is normal for a baby to be quiet at birth and not cry immediately. Your baby may be taken to a resuscitaire. This machine has a firm mattress under a warming lamp and a light so a midwife or specialist doctor can check your baby’s wellbeing. If needed in an emergency, the resuscitaire has oxygen and suction. In most cases, your baby will be brought back to you within a few minutes.

You may want to have skin to skin, or you may prefer to have your partner hold the baby close to you, depending on how you are feeling. If all is well, you will have time for skin to skin in the recovery area. This is where you will go after the operation is finished and you have been stitched up to be monitored closely for a couple of hours. 

For more details on skin to skin during caesarean section, take a look at this video from Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells.

Your baby will need feeding soon after birth. If you’re planning on breastfeeding your baby, it is best to try and latch your baby on as soon as you can. Amazingly, your baby can, if all is well, crawl to your breast from your tummy if you’re lying down. This is because your baby can smell your colostrum (first milk). While not all babies will do the “breast crawl”, it is quite amazing to see!

There are several examples of the “breast crawl” to watch on YouTube, e.g. 

Your colostrum, produced from 20 weeks of pregnancy onwards, is the best first food for him or her. It is thicker and richer than mature milk and can be cream or golden in colour. 

It’s best to try and breastfeed your baby within the first hour or so, if that is possible. At this stage, your baby is likely to be more likely to be awake and able to feed effectively.

If you choose to offer your baby the first feed from a bottle, holding your baby close, skin to skin, is ideal for responsive feeding. This is where you work with your baby's cues to find the right pace for the feed, and notice when your baby is satisfied.