A Fascinating Snapshot of a Baby's First Hour of Life

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By Anisa Arsenault, Associate Editor
Updated March 2, 2017
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Compared to other species, human babies are incredibly (and adorably) helpless and slow to develop. But a new article in Science News looking at a 2011 study published in the journal Acta Paediatrica shows that our fragile little offspring actually achieve many major milestones in just 70 minutes after being born. Their motivation? To find mom’s breast and start feeding.

The study videotaped 28 infants, all of whom received skin-to-skin contact with their mothers right after birth. Of those 28, five tapes were randomly selected for analysis. Researchers concluded that newborns pass through distinct behavioral phases, which can roughly be charted by minute.

Minute 0:  That initial loud wail opens up the lungs.

Minute 2: Babies briefly hold still on mom’s chest after they’ve finished crying, possibly as an evolutionary instinct to stay hidden from predators.

Minute 2.5: Eyes open, and heads and mouths start moving.

Minute 8: Eyes stay open — for five minutes or longer. Babies become more active, moving their hands towards their mouths, looking at mom and making noises.

Minute 18: Time to rest up.

Minute 36: Infants start inching towards their mothers’ breasts, navigating by smell.

Minute 62: Babies finally reach their goal and start to nurse. At this point, they’re probably only getting colostrum, that yellowish fluid that’s produced before milk comes in. It’s rich in protein and antibodies, and baby’s early suckling helps a mother’s body make the transition from producing colostrum to producing milk. It also helps a woman’s uterus start to contract.

Minute 70:  Nap time.

Of course, these timetables vary from baby to baby. But the takeaway is the same: a more complete picture of a newborn moments after birth helps healthcare providers better respond to a baby’s immediate needs and possibly figure out better ways to encourage breastfeeding.

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