Hold that hat!

Someone on Facebook is doing a survey of what birth workers think about putting knit toques on newborn heads.

We have to ask ourselves about the way this hat thing got going. Babies were not doing well after being born to medicated women and immediate cord clamping. The baby who has started off at such a deficit will lose body heat and be in very rough shape. Helping keep in heat by a hat might be a matter of life and death in this instance where the body is so weakened.

Contrast that to a baby born spontaneously and placed on his mother’s body. . . both of them wrapped together in a warmed blanket skin to skin. The cord is intact, the placenta continues its work of transferring just the right amount of blood back and forth to the baby while he/she adjusts to life in an air environment in a leisurely fashion.

Then, the baby and the mother lock in a gaze; the mother recognizing that this is her own; she buries her nose in the wet head and drinks in the smell of her young; she locks the imprint of that child’s whole being into her vision and she would not ever confuse her baby with someone else’s. Later, she chooses the clothing SHE wants her child to wear; she dresses and grooms her own baby. . . she is in charge and has been born as the mother. No one and no article of clothing has come between her and her total impressions of that baby. Through skin, mouth, nose, eyes and heart she has claimed the baby as her own and the bond is strong.


Bringing medical birth practices to a natural birth is a sign that we lost so much knowledge in the dark years when homebirth/midwifery was wiped out. Now, we can look again at these things and lay them aside as foolish for well women and their infants.

29 thoughts on “Hold that hat!

    • great post, i lol’d at this // And we certainly know a hat changes a newborn’s appearance from the wise look of someone from a distant star to the slightly goofy look of someone returning from a successful shopping expedition. //

      i never though about a hat 1st time around, my midwife/ medwife insisted on one tho. next time i’ll negotiate it beforehand.

    • I don’t think Liam (second homebirth baby, this time with Glo) ever had a hat on until it was time to go outside in the winter in Vancouver. I am fuzzier with the first, but I know it was not the first day….I love fuzzy baby heads too much to cover them up! <3

  1. Excellent! We experienced a great home water birth with our second son, and “delayed hatting” until I’d had a chance to run my hands over his silky little newborn head. And then a hat was all he ended up wearing for some weeks. What a delicious kangaroo baby he was…

  2. hat here hat there hat everrrrywhere. I didn’t want them on my own babies and shied away from the expectation some had of me placing em on their babies. same thing with bulb syringe. ack.

  3. This post reminds me yet again – Gloria, you are my hero. Your writing has profoundly influenced my perception and experience of birth. I cannot thank you enough.

    much love

  4. i had tears over this post, as it was what i had always imagined my birth would be. my son was born in hospital and had be be intubated. cord cut immediately, as he didnt breathe for 7 minutes.

    • Hugs to you, mama – I know how you feel. My eyes filled up as well – I had a microprem at 24 weeks and the same thing – cord cut by staff, placenta whisked away to pathology (despite my protests and tears) and he was intubated for 9 weeks. Horrendous birth. He’s still in the NICU since he came on Dec. 15th.

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  6. thank you for this! i’ve always disliked the hats immediately placed on newborns heads. as a knitter, i absolutely appreciate that many of the hats available in hospitals are generously handknit and donated but… too often they are ugly! and made of rough acrylic, or even soft acrylic, which is the last thing i want on a soft baby’s head, they look ridiculously large, and most importantly, they create a distance between the baby and mother that just doesn’t need to be there.

  7. I am not sure why, but reading your description of the mom and baby skin to skin brought tears to my eyes. My son is 6 months old now and it brought me back to those first few moments after his birth. It’s a moment I shall treasure forever and ever!

    p.s. great article^_^

  8. I find it interesting how fast those hats find their way off a tiny newborn head. It gets in the way of mom adjusting and meeting her new love bub, wiggling and shifting together. The hat falls off, and everyone scrambles to get a new, dry hat, and yet again, gets arms in the sight line of baby-mama to roughly (even if very gently) plop this tight and likely very uncomfortable thing on its new little soft dewy head.

    Such a great point about medication-free intact birth, and alter warm mama and bub.

    Clap clap.

  9. Great short post on baby hats. When my first was born, I kept slipping her hat off so I could breathe in how wonderful the top of her head smelled. I waited as long as they would let me to bathe her. I was in awe of the way she smelled and resented the hat, but had no idea it would be okay to take it off.

    I requested “no hat” the second time and while I think someone put a hat on him in the minutes after while I was distracted, it didn’t happen right away and as soon as everyone left I took it right off again.

    Third time around, no hat whatsoever. It was lovely. I don’t see how there could be any doubt that my body and the baby’s body are meant to work well together. If there’s a problem, sure, a hat or other help may be needed, but in a normal and unhindered birth/post-partum, there is just no need for the hat. It’s nothing but an irritating encumbrance and artificial separation between mother and baby.

    I also like to keep my babies naked (diaper only) for weeks . . . skin-to-skin with a blanket over us is just perfect, thank you very much.

  10. I had a c-section which was terrible-I couldn’t hold him for a while because I literally couldn’t feel my arms, let alone move them & safely hold a baby! I got to kiss him and take a picture, then Hubby went with him to the nursery for whatever they did (not sure what since we refused vax and formula!) then I finally got to nurse him etc. But I’m sure I never but a hat on him and he’s hatless in every picture we have. I don’t even think the stupid hat they gave us even fit him.

  11. Interesting article, thank you. As far as I know there’re no hats here in the UK. And I’d hate to see them. Always wondered why they put them on. Now I know. 🙂

    I had my baby via c-section and she stayed naked for 95% of the 6 days we stayed in hospital. We didn’t even bath her until she was 6 weeks old.


  12. I will have to look in our treasure box. I don’t think there are any pics of my lil one w/ a hat. He had to spend 6 days in the NICU for blood sugar probs so he had an IV in his head so I know there was no hat there. but with my 14 yr old they not only plopped a hat on him they plopped him in a plastic bag! scared the snot out of me. When I said something about it later they said its standard and apologized I didn’t know it would happen. I thought he was dead or something because that was the only reason to put a baby in a bag.

  13. This struck me as so funny because my husband’s step daughter is pregnant and just the other day I sat considering knitting patterns and settled on the 6-12 month one – not sure if it was something in my gut telling me to hold off or not, but picturing a newborn with a hat on just felt wrong somehow… and here’s why!

  14. My son wore a hat in NICU, he struggled to keep his temperature up (even when skin to skin) so when he was in his humicrib he wore many layers of clothes (a couple of singlets, a onesie, socks, and a hat) as well as being wrapped and multiple layers of blankets. As he held his temperature the layers came off until all that was left was a singlet and a nappy, and that’s how he stayed for the rest of the summer.

    I’d much rather a hat on a preemie if that gets them home sooner but on normal healthy babies I don’t see the point.

  15. I am thinking the reason the hat thing got started,(besides the excellent reasons Gloria mentioned) is that the delivery room in a hospital is air conditioned and almost 20 degrees colder than what the newborn just came out of, and covering his head helped keep the heat in…but that could also be accomplished in hospital, by putting hte baby directly on mom’s chest and covering BOTH with a warm blanket! (which i have done at home..I don’t have hats for babies…;)

  16. I put a hat on my newborn. It was a water birth in our chilly basement. Snuggles first, though. Hat only went on when I had him taken upstairs while I got out of the pool and didn’t stay on long after I was holding him again.

  17. Very interesting topic- I’d never thought about this before. Yet, now that I do my first two children born in hospitals with doctors were ‘hatted’ immediately while my third who was born at the hospital with midwives I can’t even recall if we put the hat or him or they did. However, judging from the pictures it wasn’t until well after he was born.

  18. Hats are a detrimental vestige of medical separation of mother and baby, but the tube gauze hats are useless if they are being used to warm baby, science shows they do the opposite, and then there is the consideration of even the slightest restriction to a little head trying to “un” mold, not to mention all the pheromone restrictions that interfere with bonding as you point out so well. My instructions to midwives immediately after a birth….stop hatting and chatting….don’t touch, don’t talk….that sacred time belongs to mamma and baby alone. Thank you Glo for bringing this topic so near and dear to my heart to the attention of so many who will listen ….because it comes from Gloria Lemay. You know I listen to EVERYTHING you say to me! 🙂

  19. I’ve often thought the hats weren’t needed; kind of goes along with the “baby warmer” that actually cools them, compared to mom’s warm body. Every time I’ve seen a mother nuzzling and kissing her newborn’s head, it has bothered me that the hat was in the way. The last birth shown in the movie, “Orgasmic Birth”, for instance — an otherwise marvelous, joyful birth. But then on comes the hat, a barricade between mother and baby. There are so many ways that birth is “messed with” these days. It helps motherbabies when we notice and question these kinds of things.

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