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HOW TO SAFELY SURVIVE SECOND NIGHT SYNDROME
Have you heard of this mysterious phenomenon known as second night syndrome in newborns? Or did you find this post when you were frantically Googling newborn breastfeeding nonstop?
However you found this post I promise it will answer all your questions and put your mind at ease about newborn second night syndrome.
Newborns sleep, eat and cry. This we know.
But how much sleeping should we expect?
How much crying is normal?
When a baby is eating all the time does that mean they are not getting enough from breastfeeding?
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. 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.
These 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 your baby in the bassinet she will usually wake up and want to breastfeed again.
When your baby is breastfeeding nonstop you may find yourself thinking any one of these things:
- How can you possibly 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 think your baby is the reason for this newborn feeding frenzy is because he is not getting anything you would be wrong most of the time.
WHY 2nd 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?
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. Then 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. 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 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. It makes sense. You often have a lot of visitors on the first day. Your baby gets passed around to be held and adored by family and friends.
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 wants to nurse all night.
NEWBORN SECOND NIGHT SYNDROME IS NORMAL
It feels like you may never sleep again. (I remember thinking that exact thought when I had my second baby).
Another important thing to know is that for babies, breastfeeding is more than just getting food.
Being at the breast is comforting. It is soothing. It feels safe.
Your newborn breastfeeding all night that second night 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 :
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 needs to be a top priority for you. An early evening nap works too. Bonus points if you get a nap in the afternoon and early eveneing.
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. (These white noise machines come in super handy to use with your baby later on too!).
Diffuse some lavender essential oil.
Let your mind take a break.
HAVE A NEWBORN SECOND NIGHT PLAN B
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.
Have your partner swaddle your baby and go do some laps up and down the hospital halls for an hour.
This Swaddle Blanket makes swaddling easy peasy. It is a must-have for brand new parents.
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 outside.
Take that hour to get a power nap. Take a two-hour nap if the baby is sleeping. It’s okay to take a break like this! 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 known to put off bringing the baby back to you, even when he is showing clear feeding cues. You want to avoid this.
2nd NIGHT SYNDROME WARNING SIGNS
Frequent feeding is normal.
However, be aware of these warning signs that things are not normal.
Inconsolable crying. Your baby won’t breastfeed. She will only cry.
Your baby is feeding but you are not hearing any swallowing even though he is sucking vigorously.
Your baby does not have any wet diapers for longer than a 12-hour stretch.
In the second day of life, your baby should have at least two wet diapers.
Your baby is lethargic.
If your baby won’t breastfeed and only wants to sleep. This is often not the gift it sounds like it might be.
I worry more about a baby in the first few days who sleeps long stretches without eating than the baby who wants to eat constantly.
If you are in the hospital the nurse 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 and feed your baby all the colostrum that you express.
If your baby has any signs of dehydration then you should supplement her.
If you can hand express or pump some colostrum use that.
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. The doctor will ask.
Check your baby’s temperature. Your dr will probably want to know that as well.
If you are asking yourself if you should call the doctor then you probably should.
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 ON SECOND NIGHT SYNDROME
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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Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.