9 Key Phases During Your Baby’s First Hour

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by Julie Hamilton

Julie-Hamilton-June-WebEvery healthy baby moves through the same 9 phases (if allowed) immediately following delivery. This is a wonderful time of learning and orienting and is an important beginning to life and thriving outside the womb. Interview your birthing facility and hospital options prior to delivery to make sure they accommodate this time, and ask what procedures need to be rearranged so it is protected. If baby is removed from mom’s chest prior to the first feed, expect the 9 phases to start over. Below is a list of the 9 phases with brief descriptions of what you’ll see and general indications of time after delivery.

Great checklist for dads! After delivery, keep baby skin-to-skin on mom for the first 60-90 minutes checking off each stage below.


Birth Cry – A short “Hello World!” cry as baby is lightly toweled off and placed on mom’s bare chest. Keep baby unwrapped and unclothed so movement is free and directly against the warmth of mom.


Hands are relaxed and no mouth movements


Small movements of head and shoulders, may open eyes and show some mouth activity


Mouthing and sucking movements increase (this is around 8 minutes after birth)


Baby may have resting periods throughout these phases


Baby moves toward and reaches the breast with small bursts of action

(around 35 minutes after birth)


Baby smells, touches and tastes. While breastfeeding is a learned activity for moms, it is absolutely instinctive for babies.


Your newborn self-attaches and feeds (around 1 hour). Depending on factors such as amount of fluids given to mom during labor, pain medicine and others, the timing of the stages will differ slightly. Mom’s first milk, colostrum, is full of developmental and protective proteins, antibodies and everything the baby needs for his or her first meal! Moms make food that sustains life!


Baby falls into a restful sleep (around 90-120 minutes after birth)

Protecting this time will help baby and parents have a great first learning experience and signal mom’s body to make more milk. Baby will move more quickly through these 9 stages for the second and third feeding. If you have decided to breastfeed or maybe just hope to try it, choosing a facility committed to protecting this time will help you move confidently towards your breastfeeding goals.

Hot Tip!

Bath and almost all procedures can wait until after the first feed for healthy babies and healthy moms. Other procedures can be done with baby on mom’s chest. Interview your birthing facility or hospital to make sure baby can be left on mom through all 9 phases.

For more questions to ask the birthing facility or hospital and more parents-to-be tools and resources visit http://www.beforeyoubreastfeed.com/home/gift-basket.

Julie Hamilton is a speaker, author and coach helping moms-to-be identify their Choice and Voice and move confidently towards their breastfeeding goals. Her advocacy work also includes projects that reduce or eliminate obstacles for new moms. Julie can be reached at julie@juliesvillage.org.

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