Second Night Syndrome

You’re freshly home from the hospital with your two-day-old baby. You’re sore, tired, and a little overwhelmed, but so in love! You’re feeling pretty confident about this transition because last night, when your baby was only 16 hours old, went great. You had a couple of feeds that went okay and, mostly, your baby snoozed in their bassinet.

Evening approaches and something shifts. Your baby has been nursing around the clock, and your cries as soon as you put him down. It seems like he’s starving, even though you’ve fed him three times in a row. Is he getting enough? You haven’t slept yet, and you’re starting to wonder what’s happening. It wasn’t like this last night! What is going wrong?!

Nothing! It’s Second Night Syndrome, and it’s totally common. Many babies have a pretty rough time on their second night of life. Now that the birth hormones are starting to wear off (for both of you), your baby has “woken up” and realized that they are most definitely NOT in Kansas anymore. Everything that is comforting and familiar to your baby- including the snug security of the womb, the steady beat of your heart, and the dark, watery world that was their home- has disappeared and your baby might be feeling a little homesick. Here’s what you might be experiencing:

  • a ton of cluster feeding. What does that mean? Basically, it’s when your baby wants to start another feed as soon as the last one has finished, or soon afterwards. They may act like they are starving even though you just fed them 10 minutes ago. This behaviour may continue for several hours or even all night. You may only get a small break in between them, but it’s super normal! This is how your baby helps bring your milk in.
  • baby falls asleep as soon as you begin a nursing session.
  • baby may doze peacefully in your arms or on your chest, but the moment you put the down, they wake up and start the whole fussing and feeding cycle all over again.
  • you may be feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, confused, and frustrated. At only two days postpartum, your body is undergoing massive healing and your hormones are all over the place, making you even less able to cope with the stress of the second night.

“Second night syndrome” is a perfectly normal response to being born, and most babies experience a bit of fussiness on their second night of life. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong or that your baby is starving. It can feel overwhelming, but there ARE some things you can do to help survive the second night!

1. Anticipate it. The second night syndrome does not discriminate, and many parents don’t know what’s happening or why. They may feel confused and concerned with the sudden change in their baby’s mood. If you expect it and understand what’s happening on your baby’s second night, you’ll be better able to meet your baby’s needs- and your own- during it!

2. Re-create the womb. Remember the journey that your baby just made! They’re used to being in a place that is warm, cozy, dark, wet, and secure- and now they’re in a big, bright, cold world. This has got to be scary for such a tiny person! You can help your baby by re-creating the sensations of the womb wherever possible. Try swaddling your baby, keeping the lights dark, and using white noise to soothe your baby.

3. Cuddle your baby. You can never do enough skin-to-skin contact! Not only does this help your baby figure out breastfeeding, but it helps calm them, too. Do lots of skin-to-skin and hold your baby close. It’s SO normal for your baby to refuse to sleep in their bassinet, and you’re NOT spoiling them or creating bad habits. Trade off baby-holding responsibilities with your partner so you can both nap.

4. Say no to visitors. Consider limiting- or declining altogether- visits for the first day or so. Since baby is most sleepy during the first 24 hours, it’s best to sleep and rest as much as possible during this time to prepare for the second night.

5. Your baby isn’t starving! Unless you’re really struggling with breastfeeding, chances are your baby isn’t starving- even if they’re acting like it. Remember that nursing is about so much more than just milk! To your baby, breastfeeding is the safest place they can be. Let your baby feed as much as they want during the second night- it will help to bring in your milk boost your supply!

Second Night Syndrome can feel hard and overwhelming, but with the right tools, you can get through it just fine. Our postpartum doulas can help you come up with a plan to get through the second night before your baby ever arrives- and they can be with you, in your home and by your side, throughout it so that you don’t have to face it alone. Want to learn more about how you can have a postpartum filled with healing, bonding, and yes, sleep? Get in touch today to learn how we can support you!