Breastfeeding: The Sacred Hour

skin-to-skinThis year, 2013, marks an important year for breastfeeding in Illinois. Two initiatives relating to breastfeeding in the hospital go into effect. One, the Hospital Infant Feeding Act, which requires hospitals to adopt an infant feeding policy that promotes breastfeeding. Two, a breastfeeding quality improvement project for Illinois maternity hospitals that will include skin to skin within the first hour after birth, rooming-in and the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.

This year, we are two steps closer to fully supporting mothers and babies in Illinois by providing them with the best opportunity to successfully start their breastfeeding experience in those crucial first few days.

And HealthConnect One can help bring these policies into practice. In order for Illinois maternity hospitals to support breastfeeding, we have developed the Hospital Breastfeeding Toolkit – a collection of strategies and resources, designed to help guide hospitals through implementation of breastfeeding supportive maternity care practices.

Hospital Breastfeeding Toolkit

Below you will find a strategy shared by a Baby-Friendly hospital in Illinois for encouraging skin to skin.  We invite you to share your own strategies in the Comment Box below.

Thank you.

Sadie Wych, MPH, CLC, Project Coordinator, HealthConnect One


The Sacred HourBeth Seidel

by Beth Seidel, IBCLC, at Pekin Hospital in Pekin, Illinois

We first started recommending and practicing the Sacred Hour during our original Baby-Friendly staff training 3 years ago. During one class discussion, staff identified visitors at and after the birth as a barrier to getting the baby to breast within the first hour of life. There are at least a couple of factors that play into this. Mom may not want to breastfeed in the presence of other people, and often the baby is being passed from person to person in the room. When this was first being implemented, many of the nurses discussed it with parents during labor and came up with a plan for visitors after the birth. We found that many parents welcomed the opportunity for peaceful, private bonding time, and they did not want visitors but were afraid to voice this to their friends and family. They were relieved that we were willing to take on this task. I discuss the Sacred Hour in my breastfeeding class and the parents are usually very excited about it.

Of course we will have parents who are not open to experiencing this hour of private time, but I think we should discuss it with all parents and let them know that this experience is an option for them. Shortly after we started offering the Sacred Hour, we had a mom who had her sixth baby with us. She got in the tub after the birth of her baby and she and her husband did not accept any visitors for quite a while. She later told me that she wished she could have had the five previous babies over again so they could have had a Sacred Hour with them. I remember her saying that she had no idea of what she had missed before. So many people don’t know what they don’t know. This really is about education and letting parents know what the possibilities are.

Recently, I went into a mom’s room about an hour after the baby had been born. The room was full of people and the baby was being held by mom, chewing on his hand. I asked the mom if she was ready to feed her baby since he was indicating he was ready and she quietly whispered to me, “I would love to, but not with all these people in the room”. So I asked everyone to leave and we got mom and baby skin to skin to start the feeding process. However, the baby bobbed around and put his mouth on the nipple but did not suck despite mom continuing to keep baby near the breast. Finally, he did latch in the side lying position, which seems to work when nothing else will.

Babies, like all mammals, have a natural feeding sequence. Other mammals are born, and without intervention find a teat. No one removes them from their mother, messes around with them and wraps them in a blanket. If that did happen, the mother would most likely reject her baby and the baby would not find his way to the teat if he did return to the mother because the natural sequence had been interrupted. The step reflex in the newborn enables him to move himself to the breast, he bobs and pecks on the mom’s chest until he finds his target and will usually go to the left breast first. Baby will typically be latched to the breast within 50 minutes after birth. Of course, this process works better after an unmedicated birth. We need to encourage mom to be more patient with a baby of a medicated birth.

We need to consider more carefully how we interfere with the establishment of breastfeeding and bonding when we interrupt this natural sequence.

Simply giving the parents the opportunity for privacy and promoting the physical closeness of mom and baby will help to better establish breastfeeding and bonding.