Surviving “2nd Night Syndrome” with a New Baby

Feb 14, 2021

After the stress of birth many babies sleep soundly for the first 24 hours. But the second night, when many babies are home, can be a whole different story. 


That cozy uterine environment in which the baby was snuggled tightly, constantly held, rocked, hearing the constant sound of mom’s heartbeat, her voice, surrounded by darkness and warmth…all come to an abrupt end! 


Now the baby is in a completely different environment with new sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and textures that are completely unfamiliar. The baby is put in clothes, diapered, passed from person to person, and laid down alone in a hard unfamiliar bassinet. Just describing this from a baby’s perspective, can you see why some babies don’t deal well with this and are extremely fussy that second night?  


Many parents automatically jump to the conclusion that something is wrong when a baby is super fussy that second night. Moms often think that they are not making enough milk because the baby is always at the breast wanting to nurse. Almost all mammals keep their babies close to them during the weeks following birth. They nurse on demand when they are showing hunger cues. As humans, why do we not practice this same thing that mother nature demonstrates so beautifully? 


That second night, parents often find the only place that baby is the most settled is in mom’s arms and at the breast. This is the closest place to being back in the womb for a baby. In the arms of mama, the baby feels safe and secure with all the unfamiliar things they are being exposed to. 


Second night survival tips:


  • Watch for early hunger cues like rooting, sticking their tongue out, bringing their hands to their mouth, licking motion. CRYING IS A LATE HUNGER CUE! 


  • FEED THE BABY WHEN THEY ARE SHOWING HUNGER CUES! Newborns eat frequently; every 1-3 hours is NORMAL. Their belly is only the size of a marble on day 2 and breastmilk is digested very quickly. On demand feeding is especially important during the early days for both mom and baby.  


  • On day 2 the baby should have at least 2 pee diapers and 1-2 meconium (black/dark green) poop diapers. If the baby does not have adequate output this could indicate they are not getting enough milk. You may need to hand express some milk and feed the baby (~5 mls which is a teaspoon and is normal for a 2-day old). If you are concerned call your pediatrician or your IBCLC. 


  • Let the baby have access to their hands to help self soothe.  During an ultrasound most babies have their hands up by their face. After they are born this familiar behavior is no different. Babies love to have their hands near their mouth. This means no mittens and no swaddling in their hands. Trim or file their nails if you are afraid of them scratching themselves. 


  • Do as much skin to skin as possible and hold them next to your chest so the baby can hear your heartbeat. 


  • Motion is really helpful! Walking, rocking, swaying, gentle bouncing on an exercise ball are all effective soothing techniques. 


I hope this article has been helpful! Just know that any change in environment can throw babies off so keep this article handy! Being at mom’s breast almost always brings comfort and security to babies! 


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With love & gratitude,


Let’s be (.)(.) Breast Pen Pals!

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