What happens to my baby immediately after birth?
Newborn babies don’t have the ability to control their temperature well, so it’s very important that they be kept warm and dry. If you’ve had a vaginal delivery and you and your baby are both in good condition, he should be placed directly onto your abdomen and dried off there. He’ll be covered with a warm towel or blanket and given a cap to keep his head warm.
Skin-to-skin contact will help keep your baby warm and let the two of you start bonding as well. (Don’t worry about bonding if you can’t hold your baby right away because one of you needs immediate medical care. There’ll be plenty of time for bonding later.)
Your practitioner will clamp the umbilical cord in two places and then cut between the two clamps. (Your partner can do the honors if he wants to!) She’ll collect a tube of blood from the cord to check your baby’s blood type and may use it for other tests as well.
Consider talking to your caregiver about when to clamp and cut the cord. Many practitioners in the United States routinely cut the cord almost immediately after birth. However, recent research shows that waiting a few minutes – so that extra blood flows from the placenta to the baby – lowers the risk of newborn anemia and iron deficiency in infancy.
During your baby’s birth, your caregiver may have suctioned your baby’s mouth and nose before the delivery of his shoulders. If your baby still seems to have too much fluid in his mouth or nose, she may do further suctioning at this time.
While you and your baby are locking eyes, he’ll be closely observed to ensure that he continues to do well. At one and five minutes after birth, an Apgar assessment will be done to evaluate your baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response, and color. If your baby is doing well, you and your baby should not be separated. Your caregiver should be able to do these simple assessments (as well as other tasks) while your baby is resting on your belly.
When can I start breastfeeding?
Babies tend to be very alert right after birth, so that’s a good time to begin breastfeeding if you’re both willing. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that healthy full-term infants “be placed and remain in direct skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately after delivery until the first feeding is accomplished.”
There’s no need to panic if your newborn seems to have trouble finding or staying on your nipple right after birth – she may just lick your nipple at first. Most babies will eventually begin to nurse within the first hour or so, given the opportunity.
Don’t be shy about asking your caregiver or nurse to help you get started while you’re still in the birth room (or recovery room, if you had a c-section). Later, when you get to the postpartum unit, there may be a lactation consultant available for one-on-one coaching or group breastfeeding lessons. You should be able to find out ahead of time what resources are available. Be sure to ask for all the help you need.