"Is there really a biologically based critical period in humans for the mother-infant bond to develop?"
Meredith F. Small asks this question in her cross-cultural book 'Our Babies, Ourselves'. She found, "Mothers have been poked, prodded, bled, and examined, but scientists CANNOT FIND ANY DIRECT LINK BETWEEN A PARTICULAR HORMONE AND THE URGE TO ACT MATERNALLY."
As psychologist Michael Lamb points out, in a species with long-term parenting obligations such as humans or other socially complex primates, it is RIDICULOUS to think the initial attachment between mother and infant would be regulated to JUST A FEWcritical minutes after birth.
No one denies that human females go through hormonal changes during labor & birth. Levels of progesterone are high, and estrogen increases during the last several weeks which influence the release of oxytocin and prostaglandins around the time of delivery.
These important hormonal changes do affect mothers and how they feel, but NONE OF THEM have proved as essential for bonding as they have for example in rats, geese, and sheep.
Human young are so helpless that evolution would have selected AGAINST a critical period for mothers to imprint and infants to attach, and would have selected instead FOR MORE FLEXIBILITY in the system. In no arena is human parenting narrowly defined, and so it would be unlikely that such an IMPORTANT ATTACHMENT as that between a helpless human infant and a caring adult would be left to hormonal triggers and fixed behavioral patterns.
Geese imprint on their mothers soon after birth because they have such a very short time to learn what they need to know before going off on their own, and rat mothers are preprogrammed to be nurturing for the same reason. But for primates, especially humans, offspring development takes YEARS AND YEARS and there is much to learn before they can survive on their own.
"It is therefore unreasonable to insist that mothers must bond with infants immediately after birth or else the bond will never be established."
"The parent-infant bond is the product of interaction and mutual attention. Like any human attachment, the initial biological attraction between adult and child brings them together, but it is the PROCESS of interacting together that builds a bond. In that sense, anytime spent together is critical time." Small writes.
In conclusion Mamas, if you were lead to believe in the claim/theory that your hormonal bonding cocktail would only be released if given that first hour, and/or your baby can only receive it in that first hour, I want to assure you biologically, if you did not have your GOLDEN HOUR immediately after birth, you and your baby will still imprint on one another. Such a vital connection is not exclusive to those first very few minutes, or that first hour.
You will both fall in love, you will both attach, you will both build family within the beat and breath and touch of your hearts.