Nothing feels better than going home with your bundle of joy and finally getting that sense of relief: your 40 weeks of being a baby grower is moving to a new chapter.
You've managed to make it through your first day as a new mom and you might think to yourself, “This newborn thing might not be as bad as I thought it would be.” Although you're sore and tired, having your little one cradled in your arms just makes it all worth it. Oh, the sweet snuggles.
Day 2 comes along, and now you're thinking, I got this.
Then night comes along, you notice something's different. Your baby cries the moment you lay the sweet wonder down on the bassinet. Nursing won't seem to work. Why won't she stop crying?
What the Fudge is happening?
You might start to wonder, “Is there something wrong? It wasn't like this yesterday. My baby's been fed but they just keep on crying. Did I miss something?”
Well, mama, I'm here to tell you that everything is perfectly fine. What's happening is common for newborns and we call it Second Night Syndrome. Tuck your what-ifs away and learn about everything you need to know here.
Why I am here and who I am:
Hey mama, I am Trish— AKA Labor Nurse Mama. I am a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6. This means I am quite familiar with the postpartum period and how to navigate it. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confident Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes and the mama expert inside our Calm Mama Society, a pregnancy & postpartum membership community! I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey! You can find me over on IG teaching over 230k mamas daily. I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey!
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Why does second night syndrome happen?
I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say stepping out of your comfort zone is scary and surprisingly, the same goes for your baby.
Think about spending 9 whole months in a womb where it has always been warm, cozy, and above all, it feels like home. A few more hours into their second night of life, your baby soon realizes they're in a new environment they're not too familiar with: the snug comfort of your womb is gone, they're no longer hearing your heartbeat all the time, and the soothing darkness is nowhere to be found.
In other words, your poor baby is homesick! Instead, their skin is smothered by the “foreign texture” of a shirt and diaper, swaddled with a blanket that feels itchy and restricting, and lying down in a crib with lots of space.
WHERE IS THAT WOMAN I LISTENED TO?
Many sounds, smells, and lights confuse your little one's senses, and the only thing that feels familiar is the sound of your voice and the feel and scent of your skin.
Know that second night syndrome is normal!
At only two days postpartum, you may feel tired, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Your body is still in the process of massive healing and your hormones are all over the place, making it even harder to deal with your baby's fussiness on their second night.
A lot of sleeping is normal for babies during the first 24 hours of life. They're just tired as you are! Oftentimes, there are a lot of visitors in and out of your room on the first day. Your loved ones and closest friends pass your baby around and hold them in adoration. (Well, covid outbreak dependent) Heartwarming? Yes. Lots of stimulation for the baby? Double yes! This usually leads a newborn baby to “shut down”.
Everyone goes home and second night syndrome begins. If your baby's second night looks something like…
- Having your baby fall asleep instantly, especially when you start nursing them.
- Wakefulness alert AKA not being able to sleep.
- Frequent feeding AKA cluster feeding – which equates to a lot of vigorous sucking, It's when your baby wants to start another breastfeeding session as soon as the last one is over.
- The cycle of putting your baby down while they peacefully sleep in your arms or your chest, your baby wakes up and wants to start another feed.
…it's completely normal! There's actually nothing to worry about, mama! Know that your feelings are valid, too as this can be bothersome especially if you don't know what to expect on their second day of life.
It's ok to not like it.
Babies are inborn with survival instincts which usually lead your baby to your breast. You might think your baby is starving even though you just fed them 5 minutes ago. This behavior has been going on for hours and you only get small breaks in between. At this point, you might be convinced your breastmilk isn’t “in” yet! But, that's not the case. In fact, it's the opposite!
The more you and your little one have contact at the breast, the better signals your body gets to make an abundant milk supply. Just make sure your baby has a good latch at the breast. Otherwise, if your baby continues to appear unsettled and unsatisfied after feeding, you may have to meet with an IBCLC to have it checked as it could be a sign of your little one struggling to latch and feed effectively.
Aside from helping you bring your milk in, it's also your baby slowly realizing that the most comfortable place for them is the breast. It gives a sense of warmth and familiarity, and it's the closest to home.
Coping techniques for surviving second-night syndrome
1. Keep calm and own it!
Understand that this is a transition most babies go through, including your little one. As a supermom, the best thing you can do is stay calm and shoo the panic away by really understanding what's happening. This is why we created The Newborn Academy as a companion course for our signature birth course, you can learn more here and use the code,BABYREADY , to get 30% off now.
You may feel confused or even question yourself if you've been doing things wrong, and as a parent that wants the best for their child, it's completely normal to react this way. During this phase, it's important to be gentle with yourself and learn that in order to meet your baby's needs, you have to be a great support system to yourself.
2. Recreate the womb
Being born into a whole new world can be scary for your little one. After spending forever in a warm, cozy, dark, and wet place, they're now forced to interact with different sensations happening all at once: the sounds from your house, different people holding them from time to time, and the environment they've grown to know has now become a big, bright, and cold jungle.
You can slowly introduce your little one to their new home by making them feel it's just like the old one through the following:
- Keep your lights dark or dimmed at the very least.
- Have as much skin-to-skin contact as you can. If not possible, learn the art of swaddling your baby. Keep in mind, that you can keep a diaper on for skin-to-skin but nothing else, not even a hat!
- Use white noise to soothe your little one. Play music and sing your baby some lullaby songs while you're pregnant. You can replay them during their second night and help them remember what it felt like while they were inside your tummy!
3. Cluster feeding to get through second night syndrome
If your baby has been breastfeeding more than usual, it's actually a good sign! It's not that they're starving; it's their way of coping with the new home! To your little one, breastfeeding is the safest place they know in the early days of their life.
During this stage, your little one starts to experience hunger cues:
- sticking their tongue out
- licking gesture
- putting their hands to their mouth
In this case, it's best to offer your breast when you see hunger cues. Sometimes, babies tend to be overstimulated while experiencing hunger cues. You might see more fussiness and irritability with your newborn which usually happens during their second day of life.
On Day 2, your baby's belly is only the size of a marble. That means milk is digested very quickly, and it only makes sense if your newborns feed frequently every 1-3 hours. Your colostrum, also known as your first milk, will come in small amounts that will be more than sufficient for your hungry baby.
4. Skin-to-skin contact every time you can
Physical touch is every baby's love language! Give your little one unlimited cuddles and skin-to-skin contact because it's their way of settling and it helps them calm down. Plus, it helps them figure out breastfeeding. And no, girl. Despite what Aunt Mary is saying, you're not spoiling your little one nor are you creating bad habits by not putting them to sleep in their bassinet.
As your baby starts to snooze after a good feed, you can break the suction by taking your nipple gently out of their mouth and slowly sliding them into an upright neutral position (with their head to the side). Don't try to burp your little ones; just cuddle with them until they fall into a deep sleep. You can tell they're in their deep sleep if your baby's breathing regularly and quietly and there's no movement beneath the eyelids.
Note that this happens not just at home but in other places too. It could be during a doctor's appointment, a quick grocery run, a stroll in the mall, or even at their grandparents' house. Don't let this throw you off your mama game. Sometimes, all your baby needs is an extra snuggle at the breast and they'll soon go back to normal.
Check out my Instagram posts on how skin-to-skin helps soothe your little one!
5. No visitors on the first day
I know you can't help but share this joyful news with your friends and loved ones so you can all cherish the precious moment your little one has officially entered the world. But, their first day on earth is crucial as babies are their sleepiest during the first 24 hours. Not only that, they need to rest and recover just as you do.
Don’t panic, have a plan!
Time to bring out the girl scout in you! It's best to have a plan B aside from the tips I mentioned above. Your partner can swaddle your baby and walk around the hospital halls or around the house for at least an hour. On the other hand, you can rest up and get a power nap. After all, you deserve to take a break after all the labor mayhem!
Not so sure how to swaddle? It's just like learning how to tie your shoes when you were little! Check out my Instagram reel tutorial on how you and your partner can swaddle like a boss!