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Second Night Syndrome - What It Is & How To Survive It

The first 24 hours with your baby is nothing but pure bliss. Labor is over, pregnancy is behind you, and youfinally get to meet the precious angel you’ve been dreaming about since you first saw those two pink lines.

It’s a special time unlike any other. Everyone is a combination of exhausted and a level of content you never could have dreamed of. Luckily, you’ve got some adrenaline to help keep you going before the true sleep deprivation kicks in.

Baby most likely is snoozing away on your chest, just a sleepy little thing, for the whole day. This is the life, right? 

Was I blessed with the most content and sleepy baby, you might think? Well, perhaps you were! However, it’s not uncommon for day two to hit, and for you to meet a whole new side of your sweet baby. Maybe they’re more alert, maybe they’re hungrier, maybe they’ve started to discover their cry. Whatever it may be, all the sudden, that previously totally content baby has woken up a bit more post-labor.

Welcome to second night syndrome!

On day one of their lives, they haven’t quite woken up fully and realized that they are outside the womb. It takes them some time to recognize that the cozy home they were used to for those 9 months is no more, and once they do, they typically aren’t a fan. Who would be? It’s a lot colder and brighter out here. They have to wear a diaper all of the sudden. Nurses and doctors are poking and prodding them. Their constant food source has been cut off, and with that hunger might be kicking in. It’s quite the change! They also very likely are starting to cluster feed, meaning lots of feedings really close together in order to help your milk come in and help get them full.

If you haven’t heard of this, it might take you by surprise, but it’s totally and completely normal. Most babies go through it!

That said, on day two a new level of exhaustion has definitely kicked in for the parents, and having to adjust to a fussy baby while recovering is its own unique challenge. Even if you had a quick and easy labor, it’s still hard. But add tearing, a long labor, a c-section, and any other complications on top of it, it’s a tough day for everyone involved, especially mom. And now you have this very fussy baby to manage? It is not for the weak!

So let’s chat about a few things you can do to get through it! 

Depending on your birthing preferences and the timing of when you gave birth, you might still be in the hospital. If that’s the case, you likely have the option of letting your baby go to the nursery for a bit. If you’re anything like me, you might feel conflicted about this. I felt like my baby had to be with me the entire time at the hospital, and more than that, that I had to be the one to soothe him. It was completely unnecessary pressure to be putting on myself, but know if you feel that way too, you’re not alone. 

That pressure combined with total and complete exhaustion, I was a sobbing mess when we ultimately decided to let our baby go to the nursery. In the back of my mind, I knew it was the right choice. It was the last time we could get that kind of rest with medical professionals watching over him and at that point I had been up for who knows how many hours. I did make my husband go and watch over him in the nursery to make sure he was okay for a few minutes! While it felt like an impossibly hard decision, I have no regrets.

If you have this option, I highly suggest taking advantage. You need that sleep! You likely can tell the nurses exactly when to bring your baby back as well, so it could be when the next feed is, in an hour, whenever they fuss for over 5 minutes, or whatever you feel most comfortable with. You’ll have plenty of time to soothe your fussy baby soon enough, so try and utilize this option if you can to help you get through second night syndrome and get as much rest as you can.

Another option to take advantage of if you’re in the hospital is to utilize the nurses to help you with properly swaddling. A good swaddle can really help to soothe your baby and mimic the cozy feeling of being in the womb. At our hospital, they swaddled with two baby blankets, and my husband and I were not able to replicate that ourselves. I felt a little guilty calling the nurse in just to swaddle the baby once we had unswaddled him to feed or change, but it was well worth it for a calm baby! Plus, those nurses are there to help you in any way they can, so don’t hesitate to utilize them!

Baby might also be calmed and soothed by skin to skin time, either with you or your significant other. This contact helps regulate their temperature and provides some much needed comfort for them. It can help your milk come in as well!

If you’re back home at this point, the nursery and nurses aren’t an option anymore, but there are still some ideas to get you through this rough night.

Skin to skin - still a good option to rely on. Same with a nice, tight swaddle. If you’re unable to master the blanket swaddle, there are plenty of options out there with velcro and other fasteners to make it as easy as possible - a necessity with an overly fussy baby and sleep deprived parents. 

You and your significant other can also take shifts watching the baby and managing the fussiness to the best of your ability, while the other person naps. It can be tricky with feeds, but mom is still likely to get some form of rest if you utilize shifts. If you’re having trouble staying awake with the baby, you can always set frequent alarms to go off with your phone to ensure you don’t fall asleep unsafely with your little one.

If you have family or other trusted friends that have offered to come help, they also can do the shifts system with you so both parents can get some rest before continuing to tackle the second night together (or in shifts!)

If you simply cannot get the baby to calm down, remember, it’s okay to place your baby in a safe place and go take a breather if you need it. It won’t hurt your baby if they cry for a few minutes while you take some time to gather yourself! I mean, they might be crying anyways, so it could be no different! But no guilt is necessary for the parents. It’s okay to prioritize yourself and your mental wellbeing before diving back into the fussiness.

No matter what, you will get through second night syndrome. Even if your baby fusses the entire time, the hours will pass and you will survive it. It might not feel like it in the moment, but I promise you will. It’s all a part of the constant puzzle that is your new baby, and with every fuss and cry, you will figure out more and more about them. You are the best fit to care for your little one, and you’ve got this!

By: Ivy Doyle