The Golden Hour in Premature Infants

Attention to premature babies during the golden hour is of vital importance to generate an organic balance and avoid complications.
The Golden Hour in Premature Infants
Samanta Ruiz

Written and verified by the teacher Samanta Ruiz.

Last update: 28 October, 2022

The birth of a child is followed by a time of adaptation to the extrauterine environment, so some babies need help to overcome this transition. Discover what the golden hour is in premature babies–a crucial time for little ones born before term.

The golden hour refers to the first 60 minutes of a child’s life outside of the uterus. In the case of preemies, a specific medical protocol is activated with the aim of reducing any complications that may arise. As the old saying goes, “it can happen to anyone”, so this information can help you to have peace of mind in case your baby should happen to arrive early.

How do you help your premature baby during the golden hour?

Without going into detail, we can say that preemies are babies born before the normal term of gestation. It’s estimated that 8 out of every 1000 babies are born before 37 weeks gestation. Although there are different degrees, they’re all considered vulnerable patients, as they have organic immaturity and limited adaptation mechanisms. These conditions expose them to be more prone to develop severe diseases that can have long-term effects.

“There are differences between newborns born prematurely depending on the duration of pregnancy: Being born at 27 weeks of gestation is not the same as being born at 34, and this conditions different degrees of maturity and disease”.

– UNICEF –

A newborn baby being cared for by a nurse.
In the case of premature birth, professionals carry out a protocol to guarantee the baby’s health. To this end, they monitor the temperature, blood glucose levels, and provide cardiorespiratory assistance, among other things.

Medical care

However, prematurity isn’t synonymous with problems or illnesses if the right interventions are made at the right time. This is what the golden hour is all about, in which the professionals of the healthcare team follow a protocol with the aim of avoiding complications. This includes the following:

  • Maintaining the baby’s temperature at appropriate levels
  • Monitoring blood glucose levels
  • Providing cardiorespiratory support
  • Initiating early nutrition
  • Treating for infection prevention

What’s the role of parents in this golden hour?

Right 3 – The newborn has the right to receive care according to their needs, considering their weeks of gestation, birth weight and individual characteristics, with their future in mind.

– Rights of premature infants, UNICEF –

These 60 fundamental minutes for the life of the premature baby are intense in terms of medical activity and professional care, but the participation of parents is also fundamental. According to Dr. Gustavo Goldsmit, head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Garrahan Hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina, parents “are part of our team, and with their participation, the baby’s recovery is more likely”.

The mother’s intervention

The first intervention of the mother in the golden hour is when she establishes contact with her baby’s skin. This action stimulates the production of breast milk, and helps stabilize the newborn’s temperature and also his vital parameters. Even if the baby can’t breastfeed, doctors suggest that mothers rub their baby’s face with breast milk, as the skin is able to absorb the nutrients.

A mother lying with her baby on her bare chest.
Newborns are able to recognize the smell and heartbeat of their mothers, so skin-to-skin contact is essential, especially for premature babies.

Skin-to-skin contact is essential during the golden hour

As much as possible and according to their state of health, it’s important that in this first hour of life, the baby has contact with their mother. The skin-to-skin technique (early skin-to-skin contact) is especially effective in the first hours after birth. All medical procedures performed on the premature baby are necessary actions, but the curious thing is that they replicate what direct skin-to-skin contact naturally does:

  • Stabilizes breathing
  • Reduces cortisol and keeps the baby calm
  • Stabilizes blood glucose and blood pressure
  • Balances temperature and reduces the possibility of hypothermia
  • Stimulates the onset of breast milk nutrition

Other benefits are also under investigation, such as a certain reduction in in-hospital infections and respiratory illnesses. On the other hand, skin-to-skin contact during the golden hour stimulates the so-called ” attachment hormone“, oxytocin, which strengthens the bond between baby and mother. In addition, contact with the skin of the fathers can also be helpful.

The golden hour in premature babies: Know to be calm

All births involve a big change for infants, but this is especially true in the case of premature babies. That’s why the special care that we’ve just explained to you is very important. Most of the time, premature births are spontaneous and can happen to any pregnant woman. In this sense, it’s good for you to know what could happen and everything that takes place in the golden hour.

At this time, communication with the doctors is essential for you to have confidence, security, and peace of mind. Keep in mind that the proper treatment in the golden hour in premature babies will have an impact on the normal development of the little one and the rest of their life.

It might interest you...
Feeding Premature Babies: Tricks and Tips
You are Mom
Read it in You are Mom
Feeding Premature Babies: Tricks and Tips

Do you have a premature baby? If that's the case, you'll be interested to know about feeding premature babies. We'll give you some tips.