The moments after giving birth can be chaotic, beautiful, stressful, exciting, scary, and exhilarating—all at the same time. They can also be an important time in starting your baby on a path to good health.

Of course, you may not be in any condition right then to remember what should, and shouldn’t, happen then. So well before giving birth, talk with your doctor or midwife about what you want to happen right after your baby is born.

Here are five things to consider.

1. Delay Cord Clamping If Possible

Many healthcare providers clamp the umbilical cord immediately following birth because they believe that reduces the risk of heavy bleeding. But recent research shows that's not helpful. The World Health Organization recommends waiting at least a minute or once the cord has stopped pulsing. The continued blood flow between placenta and newborn may improve an infant’s iron status up to six months after birth, especially among infants who are only breast-fed.

A few studies have found an increased risk of jaundice with delayed cord clamping, but the findings are mixed. If an infant develops jaundice, the treatment is usually exposure to blue light.

Women can request delayed cord clamping if they have a cesarean delivery as well. That can't always be accommodated during unplanned C-sections, but it’s often possible during scheduled ones.

2. Touch Your Newborn

Placing healthy newborns naked on their mother’s bare chest immediately after giving birth has numerous benefits for both of them, according to a review of more than 30 studies involving more than 2,000 mother-infant pairs. Babies that get skin-to-skin contact stay warmer and cry less than those who are taken away to be cleaned up, measured, and dressed. If you’re planning to breast-feed, latching a newborn right after birth might help in establishing that habit.

3. Get the Vitamin K Shot

Vitamin K is an essential nutrient that stops bleeding by helping blood clot, but infants do not have much of it at birth. Most formula is fortified with vitamin K, but breast milk contains little. So infants who exclusively breast-feed have a higher risk for bleeding if they don't get vitamin K at birth.



4. Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine

Infants get most of their first vaccines at 2 months old, but newborns receive the first of three shots to prevent hepatitis B at birth. That blood-borne disease can be transmitted from the mother to her infant if she does not know she has it. About 90 percent of children infected with hepatitis B at birth develop a chronic infection, which can later develop into liver cancer.

5. Delay the First Bath

Hospitals often wash newborns immediately following birth, but the World Health Organization (PDF) says newborns should not be bathed for at least 6 hours. That allows an infant’s temperature to stabilize and gives an opportunity for immediate latching if a mother plans to breast-feed. “Delaying the bath keeps mom and baby together so you’re not separating them,” says Michelle L. Drew, C.N.M., a certified nurse midwife at Christiana Care Health System’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Newark, Del.