Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

The First Hour After Birth and Breastfeeding

on January 6, 2015

Much of our prenatal preparation for baby’s arrival focuses on the steps and stages birth process. Birthing the baby is seen as the goal line and it is easy to get caught up and forget to think about what happens after baby is born.  The experiences of the first hour after baby arrives can have a major impact on breastfeeding.  Knowing what is normal behaviour in this time period and how to create the situation in which baby can move through these normal stages is as important as knowing the stages of labour.

Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby during the first hour or two after birth provides the natural location, and the cues, for baby to move through the nine instinctive stages.  If mum isn’t able to hold baby skin-to-skin during this time then other family members can take on this role. If there are medical reasons why baby can’t be held skin-to-skin right after birth, then start as soon as possible. Continued skin to skin contact between mother and baby has benefits for many weeks.


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The nine stages happen in a specific order and they will happen on their own without any help.  The first stage is a cry.  This happens immediately after birth as baby’s lungs expand with the first breath.   Every parent waits eagerly to hear that first cry.  Right after the first cry most babies will relax.  This is when baby can be placed skin-to-skin on the mother’s chest and covered with a blanket.  Baby’s head is not covered.  Baby will be fully relaxed and won’t move.  After a few minutes baby will start to open his eyes and move his head and shoulders.  After about five minutes the movements will become stronger and there are increased sucking movements and rooting.  The baby may have a few minutes of activity and then go back to a resting state several times over the first hour.

About 35 minutes after birth the baby will start to make crawling movements with her arms and legs and she will approach the breast and nipple.  For the next half hour the baby will familiarize herself with the breast and nipple.  The hands may touch and massage the breast and baby may mouth and lick at the nipple.  Finally the baby will self-attach to the nipple and suckle.

This usually happens about an hour after birth.  If mum was given any medications during labour they may have passed to baby and then it can take more time with skin to skin contact for baby to move through the stages and be ready to suckle.

The final stage, which usually happens about 90 minute to 2 hours after birth, is when baby falls into a restful sleep.  Mum may be ready for a nap at that time too.



It is not important to remember the stages as long as you remember to create the space in which they can happen on their own:   baby skin-to-skin on mum’s chest covered by a warm dry blanket.  Don’t try to rush the steps, they will happen naturally.  Pushing baby to latch on before he/she is ready to do so may prevent baby from getting a good latch for that first feeding.

Some additional information can be found at the following links:

The Magical Hour

UNICEF’s Baby Crawl video

LLLC’s FAQ page: Skin to Skin

If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking or Internationally






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