“Golden Hour” initiative celebrates 1st anniversary

“Golden Hour” Initiative Celebrates 1st Anniversary"

When Laura MacNeil went to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in March 2014 to give birth to her second child, she knew the experience would be different.

In April 2012, MacNeil’s daughter Rose was born via cesarean section (c-section). The operation went smoothly, with mom and baby alert and in excellent condition. Once Rose was born, she and MacNeil’s husband Dan, were ushered out of the operating room (OR) and back to the mother-baby unit.

“I barely got a glimpse of my new baby before they left and did not have the opportunity to hold her,” says MacNeil. “After the surgery, I waited alone and wide awake in the recovery room for close to three hours before I was released to the unit. During that time I felt absolutely devastated – I was missing the first precious moments of my daughter's life.”

When she became pregnant with her second child, MacNeil wrote to the managers of Maternal Child Services detailing her experience as a new mom being separated from her child. She urged them to adopt a more family-centered care approach that would allow healthy babies to stay with their mothers after c-sections.

Thanks to the hospital’s “Golden Hour” initiative, MacNeil got to do exactly that after her son Ewan’s birth.  

“Ewan was placed directly on my chest as soon as he was delivered,” she says. “I can't even begin to describe how amazing the experience was. It felt so natural and right to be doing skin-to-skin care during that very special time. Staying together allowed us to start bonding right away and get breastfeeding off to a perfect start.”

The Golden Hour initiative maximizes the bonding experience between moms and healthy babies in the first hour after either a natural or cesarean birth.

“In the past, babies would be taken for an initial assessment before being placed with mom.” says Shelley Keefe, clinical resource nurse for Maternal Child Services. “During the Golden Hour, we give the baby to mom right away so they can have direct skin-to-skin contact. The focus is on keeping moms and babies together and not separating them. Any initial assessment that we need to do can be done while they’re together. Anything that’s not immediately necessary, like weighing, measuring or cleaning the baby, can wait. ”

Building the bond between mom and baby is not the only benefit to the Golden Hour. Having skin-to-skin contact stabilizes the baby’s temperature, heart rate, blood sugar, breathing and helps build baby’s immunity. For mothers who have chosen to breastfeed it also helps to get baby ready for that first feeding.

Since starting the initiative, staff with Maternal Child Services noticed an increase in breastfeeding rates from 69 per cent to 73 per cent on average, with rates as high as 81 per cent earlier this year. Staff also noticed that babies who have the Golden Hour experience tend to latch on quicker and moms seem to be more comfortable with the initial feed.

The initiative has also expanded to the hospital’s OR and recovery room. Two days a week, Jennifer Swan, maternal child resource nurse, provides the Golden Hour experience to moms who give birth by scheduled c-sections. Days and nights when Swan is not there, other nurses in Maternal Child Services provide the service when possible. Prior to this, mothers would see their babies for a few minutes before the baby would be taken to the mother-baby unit. This meant other family members spent time with the baby while the mother spent an hour or two recovering and separated from her baby.

“The staff in the OR and recovery room have been really supportive of the Golden Hour,” says Swan. “They get to see what a difference it makes-how happy the moms are and how content the babies are. They really feel like they are part of something very special. This initiative would not be a success without their support.”

For the MacNeils, being able to spend the Golden Hour together with Ewan was an amazing experience. Laura MacNeil says they are thankful for the support they received.

“The doctors, nurses and other hospital staff were incredibly supportive and accommodating,” she says. I can't speak highly enough of the kind and skilled individuals who work in obstetrics at the Regional. When they implemented the Golden Hour policy, they put families first. I am so grateful that I got to experience the patient-centered, evidence-based care they now offer to moms who have babies via c-section.”