Understanding the Golden Hour: Background & Benefits

Close up view of a sleeping newborn resting its head on its mother's chest as part of skin-to-skin contact during the Golden Hour.

The minutes and hours directly after a baby is born can be a little overwhelming.

Everything seems to happen quickly: health checks, measurements, weigh-ins, and examinations. 

These things often occur during a period of intense emotion for the birthing parent, as they feel the combined effects of the exhaustion and joy of childbirth.

Too often, this period can feel rushed. The Golden Hour changes that.

What is the Golden Hour?

The Golden Hour is a special period of skin-to-skin contact between a birthing parent and newborn for the first hour (or two) after birth.

During the Golden Hour, we keep interruptions, including exams and measurements, to a minimum to make the skin-to-skin contact as continuous as possible.

This allows the birthing parent and newborn to recover from birth together and encourages hormone changes that help with bonding between baby and parent.

At South Shore Hospital, we recommend the Golden Hour to all birthing parents and newborns who are medically stable.

Partners or coaches can also participate in the Golden Hour, particularly if the birthing parent requires additional care, is uncomfortable, or needs to rest.

What are the benefits of the Golden Hour?

The Golden Hour can have a powerful impact on the parent-newborn couplet, with significant short- and long-term health benefits for both.

For the birthing parent, research shows that the Golden Hour helps:

  • Reduce postpartum bleeding
  • Increase both breastmilk supply and breastfeeding success rates
  • Decrease the risk of postpartum depression, anxiety, and mood disorders

Newborns benefit from the Golden Hour in a number of ways, including:

  • Improved weight gain
  • More stable breathing and heart rate
  • Higher oxygen levels
  • Better breastfeeding
  • Long-term development and attachment benefits

Research also shows that newborns who participate in the Golden Hour cry less and develop better sleep patterns – which all new parents will love!

Partners who participate in skin-to-skin contact (even outside of the Golden Hour) benefit as well, experiencing increased bonding and boosts to their mental/emotional health.

Can I participate in the Golden Hour if I have a C-section?


We encourage all birthing parents and newborns who are medically stable to participate in the Golden Hour – including patients who have C-sections.

While we strive to make each parent’s Golden Hour experience as personalized as possible, there are certain steps your care team must take after a C-section to ensure the safety and health of both the parent and the newborn.

In these cases, there may be a delay before skin-to-skin contact can begin, but your care team will make every effort to meet your wishes safely.

What if the birthing parent or newborn require extra care after delivery?

In some cases, a birthing parent or newborn may not be able to participate in the Golden Hour due to medical reasons.

This is common in newborns who require care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), as they require frequent interventions that make continuous skin-to-skin contact unfeasible.

While this can be disappointing for parents who wanted to participate in the Golden Hour, the safety of the newborn is paramount.

Fortunately, the benefits of skin-to-skin contact don’t end once the initial Golden Hour period ends.

Our care teams make every effort to get newborn and parent together for skin-to-skin as soon as possible, based on the parent’s wishes.

Parents and newborns will still experience the benefits of skin-to-skin contact, even if it occurs outside of the Golden Hour.

How does the Golden Hour work at South Shore Hospital?

As mentioned above, we recommend the Golden Hour to all medically stable birthing parents and newborns.

Similar to our Team Birth Project, we strive for an open dialog and collaborative approach with our birthing parents when it comes to the Golden Hour.

Upon admission, birthing parents will see our Golden Hour “menu," which helps birthing parents choose how they participate in the Golden Hour.

This allows our team to create Golden Hour experiences that are unique to each birthing parent and newborn – this is your time!

For example, some parents may prefer immediate skin-to-skin contact vs. having the newborn cleaned first.

Some may choose to try breastfeeding immediately, while others may opt for expressed breastmilk feeding or formula feeding during the Golden Hour.

The Golden Hour is all about creating a positive bonding experience for the birthing parent and newborn.

Our “menu” approach helps make each Golden Hour as personalized as possible.

What if I don’t want to participate in the Golden Hour?

While we recommend participating in the Golden Hour, it certainly isn’t a requirement.

Having a baby isn’t easy! Some birthing parents may elect to rest or take some time to gather their emotions immediately after giving birth, which we completely understand.

Our goal is to ensure that patients are aware of the Golden Hour and understand their options.

From that point, we strive to support whatever works best for each birthing parent and baby.

The Golden Hour isn’t a new concept – but in recent months, South Shore Health has placed a particular emphasis on making sure patients are aware of the Golden Hour and understand the potential benefits.

As a result, we’ve seen participation rates increase at South Shore Hospital and patients have been pleased with the results.

In fact, several patients who didn’t participate in the Golden Hour during previous birth have commented on how special the Golden Hour birth felt.

If you have questions about the Golden Hour prior to your delivery, we encourage you to talk to your OB/GYN provider to determine what works best for you.

South Shore Hospital’s Birthing Unit Team authored this post.

Learn more about Pregnancy & Childbirth Care at South Shore Health.