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The First Hour of Life

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

The First Hour of Life:

Many do not understand the level of importance found in the first hour of a baby's life out of the womb. There is an incredibly specific, intuitive process that a baby goes through during this imperative time period.

These baby steps (Ha-get it?) are necessary in order to complete a successful first breastfeeding. Within this first hour--- your baby will go through 9 recognizable phases while 'skin to skin' with their mother.

What are the Phases?

1. The Birth Cry: This is where your baby's lungs will expand and let out their first cry.

2. Relaxation: When your baby looks happy as can be---snuggled on Mama's chest with minimal movement.

3. Awakening: This will occur approximately 3 minutes after birth. At this time, your baby will show little movements.

4. Activity: This will occur approximately 8 minutes after birth. Your baby will begin mouthing, suckling, rooting, looking at mom, massaging the breast, and kneeing mom's uterus. These are all stimulating actions for both milk production and letdown.

5. Rest: When your baby appears to be at rest. This may occur throughout all stages.

6. Crawling/sliding: This will occur approximately 35 minutes after birth. Your baby will reach mom's breast and continue with stimulation.

7. Familiarization: This will occur approximately 40 minutes after birth. Your baby will continue to massage the breast and begin to lick the nipple, make sounds, and look at Mama. This may last for approximately 20 minutes until the first feeding occurs.

8. Suckling: This will occur approximately ~60 minutes after birth. Your baby will self attach at this time. The first 'breastfeeding' may last for ~40-90 minutes. Because your baby will be so 'new,' this first latch will (most likely) not be perfect and will produce only a few drops of breastmilk.

9. Sleeping: This will occur after the baby has completed their first feeding (around 1 1/2-2 hours after birth).

As was stated before, these steps should occur in the above order to promote a successful first breastfeeding--- starting with skin to skin directly following birth.

But what about the second hour?

Two hours after birth, your baby will become sleepy and difficult to arouse--- the reason as to why the above 9-step process is so important within the first hour of your baby's life.

This is not to say that a first feeding from the breast will not occur after the first hour, however it may be more difficult for the newborn to establish a latch and stimulate milk production.

Please note: If you and your baby are separated for a long enough time, the hospital staff may give your baby formula via bottle without your consent. For this reason, be in full communication regarding your infant feeding wishes.

Pain/Delivery Medication side-effects on the first feeding...

If a mother was has been given labor pain/delivery medications, the baby may need extra time (~2 hours skin to skin) to complete their first feeding. This is due to the medication side-effects on both the baby and mother.

The newborn milk (otherwise known as colostrum) may take a bit longer to 'come in', but this does not necessarily mean that supplementation with formula is immediately necessary. Increased skin to skin and nipple stimulation will assist in milk production and supply in these cases.

Thank you for reading! We hope you learned something new ---Please sign up for our emailing list at to receive future blog posts and updates regarding Mamas Maternal Health!

Cassie and Mikayla

Mamas Maternal Health Dietitians/Lactation Counselors

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