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9 Newborn Instinctual Behaviours in the First Hour of Life

An undisturbed first hour or "golden hour" of your baby's life is important not only for bonding between parent and babe, but also to help your baby have a gentle and supportive transition into the outside world, allowing them to regulate their respiratory rate and temperature and find the breast/chest for nursing. This is a time where weighing and measuring can wait!

Here are the 9 stages of instinctual behaviours you'll see in a healthy newborn:

1) The birth cry. This happens immediately after birth as they clear their lungs of fluid and take their first breath.

2) Relaxation. the baby has no mouth movements and the hands are relaxed. This stage usually begins when the birth cry has stopped. The baby is skin-to-skin on the birther, either covered with a warm, dry towel or blanket, or in a warm birth tub.

3) Awakening. During this stage the newborn begins small movement in the head and shoulders, opening their eyes and may have some mouth movements

4) Activity. During this stage, the newborn begins to make increased mouthing and sucking movements as the rooting reflex becomes more obvious.

5) Rest. The baby may have periods of resting between periods of activity throughout the first hour or so after birth.

6) Crawling. The baby approaches the breast/chest during this stage with short periods of action that result in reaching the breast in nipple. This stage usually begin about 35 minutes after birth.

7) Familiarization. During this stage, the newborn becomes acquainted with the birther by licking the nipple and touching the breast/chest with their hands.

8) Suckling. During this stage, the newborn takes the nipple, self attaches (sometimes with help) and suckles. This early experience of learning to feed usually begins about an hour after birth. If the birther had analgesia/anesthesia during labor, it may take more time with skin-to-skin for the baby to complete the stage and begin suckling.

9) Sleep. The baby and sometimes the parent fall into a restful sleep. Baby usually falls asleep about 1 ½ to 2 hours after birth.

Newborns will feed every 2-3 hours after this first golden hour. If your baby is preterm, early term, jaundiced, medicated, born by cesarean, or has other difficulties, they may need to be wakened in order to feed. Most babies will lose 7-10% of their birth weight after birth but usually gain it back by about 2 weeks.

Want to know how to support yourself and your baby in the early breast/chest feeding experience? Join one of our monthly Prenatal Lactation Classes held at Fully Moon Physio! Classes are 1 hour long and only $20!

Book online today at

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