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How to Safely Survive Second Night Syndrome

Newborns sleep, eat and cry. This we know.
But how much sleeping should we expect? How much crying is normal? Is eating all the time a warning sign?
What you really want to know is, “How do I know if my baby is okay????”
Keep reading and I will tell you what you want to know.

What is Second Night Syndrome?

Second night syndrome is the behavior exhibited by most newborns their second night.
The first thing to remember is that most babies do it. It is normal.
It is characterized by frequent breastfeeding. Very, very frequent. Crazy frequent. How can you possibly want to eat again frequent.
The breastfeeding sessions may be very long, lasting an hour or more.
Or, they may be very brief, followed by an equally brief period of sleep.
If you put her in the bassinet she will usually wake up and want to breastfeed again.
second night syndrome
You may think to yourself any one of these things,
  • How can you be hungry? I just fed you
  • How can you keep eating? You must have taken everything that is there.
  • If you would just stay awake and eat for long enough you would get full and then you would sleep.
  • You must not be getting anything and that is why you keep wanting to eat.
If you have that last thought, you would be wrong most of the time.

Why second night syndrome happens

Think for a moment about your baby’s existence up to this point.
She spent nine months in that nice warm, cozy place. All of her needs were met. She was constantly being held and fed.
Then it all changes. Radically.
Think about that for a minute.
First, there are hours and hours of intense massage. Then she finds herself being squeezed through a pretty tight passageway.
She is suddenly greeted by cold air. Let’s face it, all air feels cold when you’re all wet.
Hopefully she is placed skin-to-skin with you.
There’s the rub down with blankets and towels. Towels! I’ve never met a super soft hospital towel, have you?
second night syndrome
Truth be told, those blankets aren’t all that soft either. I’m not sure hospitals have heard of fabric softener.
At some point a cold stethoscope gets put on her chest, and a thermometer is poking her armpit.
Then come the clothes. Have you ever thought about what clothes must feel like the very first time?
There are the diaper changes too. Most babies don’t love a diaper change in those early days.
Which part of that sounds comforting?
If you said skin-to-skin then you would be right.

second night syndrome
The sound of her mama’s voice. The feel and scent of her skin. She’s not sure what place this is, but this part is pretty awesome.
Her instincts will usually lead her to the breast. The sucking feels good because sucking is very soothing. It releases endorphins (Source).
The whole birth experience must be pretty exhausting.
She is probably thinking the same thing that you and I think after a really intense experience. “I need a good rest.”
It is common for there to be a lot of sleeping during the first 24 hours of life.
second night syndrome
It makes sense. You often have a lot of visitors the first day. The baby is being passed around and held.
There is lots of stimulation. A lot of stimulation often causes a newborn baby to shut down. (When you see a sleeping baby in a noisy restaurant, that’s what you’re seeing, a baby who has shut down.
Then night time comes and everyone goes home and second night syndrome starts.
It feels like your baby is breastfeeding All. The Time.
second night syndrome
It feels like you may never sleep again. (I remember thinking that exact thought).
This is the second thing to remember: breastfeeding is more than just food for babies.
Being at the breast is comforting. It is soothing. It feels safe.
The third and most important thing to remember is that this is normal healthy behavior. Repeat that to yourself. Normal. Healthy.
All that sucking helps signal to your body to bring the milk in and make sure there is plenty of it!
Infants who breastfeed more frequently have:

Coping Techniques to Survive Second Night Syndrome

Now that you know how good all that breastfeeding is for your baby, it’s not going to bother you at all to not get any sleep, right? As if!
I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be rough. We all know the sleep deprivation is a form of torture.
The key is to minimize the sleep deprivation and have a plan B.
An afternoon nap (or early evening or whenever) needs to be a top priority for you.
That whole thing about sleep when your baby sleeps? That ain’t no lie, mama.
If you are one of those people who just can’t sleep during the day, then don’t sleep.
Telling yourself you have to sleep is a surefire way to not be able to fall asleep.
Plan to rest instead. Turn out the lights, Close your eyes. Count backwards from 100. Play sounds of the ocean or some other soothing sounds.
Let your mind take a break.
Make a plan B for if you hit the wall. If you find yourself at that moment when you are crying louder than your baby and saying, “I can’t do this!” (Hey, it happens!) move on to plan B.
 Second night syndrome
Have your partner swaddle your baby up and go do some laps up and down the hospital halls. If you are already home, they can do laps in some other room in the house. If the weather is nice, they can do laps around the house.
Take an hour to get a power nap. Take two if the baby is sleeping, It’s okay! It can make a huge difference.
Sometimes having a plan B at the ready makes you not even need it.
This plan will work better if your partner got a nap during the day.
If you are at the hospital, avoid sending your baby to the nursery. Nurses have been know to put off bringing the baby back to you, even when he is showing clear feeding cues.
Second night syndrome
Avoid giving your baby formula unless medically indicated by warning signs. 

Warning Signs

Frequent feeding is normal.
However some things are warning signs that things are not normal.
Inconsolable crying. Your baby won’t breastfeed. She will only cry.
Mother attending to her newborn baby
Feeding but no swallowing when sucking vigorously.
No wet diapers for longer than a 12-hour stretch. In the second day of life, your baby should have at least two wet diapers.
Lethargy. If your baby won’t breastfeed and only wants to sleep. This is often not the gift it sounds like.
second night syndrome
Honestly? I worry more about a baby who goes long stretches without eating than the baby who wants to eat constantly.

If you are in the hospital they will be monitoring all the important things. Poor feeding is a warning sign, and going longer than one 4-hour stretch would probably be considered poor feeding.

If a baby is feeding poorly your nurse will probably check his blood sugar.

If your baby is not feeding at least every three hours, do hand expression. feed everything that you express to your baby.
If your baby has any signs of dehydration then you should supplement her. First try pumping your colostrum. If you aren’t able to get more than 10 ml then use some donor milk or formula.
If you are home and thinking about calling your dr, make sure you know when the last wet diaper and feeding was. Check your baby’s temperature. Your dr will probably want to know that information.
If you are wondering if you should call the dr, you probably should.
second night syndrome
Keeping a log will help you keep track of feedings if your baby is not feeding frequently. It will also help you keep track of diapers.

Final Thoughts

As with all things, this too will pass. The second night will end.
If your baby falls blissfully asleep come morning, tell your nurse that you are not to be disturbed. Unless she wants to risk an encounter with a sleep deprived mother who finally got to fall asleep.

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