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Have You Heard Of Second Night Syndrome?

In the months leading up to giving birth, many parents-to-be may find themselves on the receiving end of unhelpful (and useless) advice like “sleep now before the baby comes” or “try to enjoy it, pregnancy is the easy part!”. However, in the midst of all this nonsense, not a lot is said  to prepare new parents for night #2 with their precious newborn. Or as it’s more commonly known: “second night syndrome”.

Important disclaimer: it’s not actually a syndrome as such and has no medical diagnosis but dismiss it at your peril. Read on…

The First 24 Hours

During the first 24 hours after baby is born, things are usually fairly chilled (relatively speaking). It’s more than likely that baby will be exhausted from the birthing experience and may generally spend a lot of time recovering after all the action. This can sometimes lull parents into a false sense of security of thinking they are the lucky ones with a baby who will be “a sleeper”.

Second Night Dramas

However, at around the 24-hour mark of baby being earth-side, things can sometimes take a big of an unexpected turn. It is around this time that baby may begin to realise that they are no longer safe and snug in their mother’s womb but instead now exist in a very loud, very bright, overwhelming, new world. As baby starts to become aware that things are very different to anything they’ve previously known, their survival instinct kicks in. This can result in *a lot* of crying and a desperate need to get as close to mum as humanly possible.

What Does Second Night Syndrome Look Like?

Now as we said, it’s not technically a syndrome and has no medical diagnosis whatsoever. However, that doesn’t stop many parents reporting it as one of the longest, toughest nights of their lives.

During this second night, baby is likely to become very distressed anytime they are not being snuggled and will likely cry very loudly whenever an attempt is made to detach them and lie them in a crib. It’s also not unusual that baby will want constant reassurance, comfort and soothing throughout the entirety of the night.  

Breastfeeding Mamas, Listen Up

If you’re breastfeeding, baby is likely to be want to be on the breast constantly in order to gain comfort. We’re talking constant feeding. Constant.

As soon as you’ve finished one feed, successfully unlatched baby and placed them in their cot fast asleep, you may find they are immediately awake demanding to be back on the boob. It can be totally exhausting, overwhelming and you may even question if everything is OK.

It may be helpful to remember that it’s pretty unlikely that baby is crying for the boob because they are hungry. Bear in mind, all baby wants to do is get right back into that warm, cosy womb. Given that’s not an option, sucking on the breast is the most comforting alternative they have available. Our top tip is to wear a decent breastfeeding bra and lather up the nipples with nipple cream in advance of each feed.  Have some extra tubes handy too in case you run out…

How Long Does It Last?

You’ll be relieved to know that this phase won’t last that long and it will soon pass. As baby gradually becomes more comfortable with the outside world, they won’t need to be held constantly and will be more at ease with lying in their crib. It can be helpful though to mentally prepare that it may take baby a few days and weeks before they are able to settle more easily. A baby sling could come in really handy during this time so that you can still get some things done (like brushing your hair or  teeth) whilst baby still has the comfort of being close to you. This FreeRider option is lovely for the newborn days – and sustainable too.

Keep Calm and Prepare For The Worst

You know what they say, a strong offence is the best form of defence. Plan for a long night of being awake and have everything set up in advance to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Here are some of our top tips:

  • Pile up the cushions. Build yourself a little pillow fort and get as comfortable as possible as it may be a long night of sitting up and holding baby. Use as many cushions, pillows and blankets as you need to keep yourself propped up whilst holding baby.
  • Have a snack / water station next to you. This will help keep you going when you’re feeling tired and may help avoid too many low points.
  • Tag team. If you’ve been able to come home from the hospital soon after giving birth and have a partner, share the load with them so that you can both get some rest. If baby is insistent that only mum holds them, ask your partner to take over first thing in the morning so you can get some nap time.
  • Skin-to-skin. Lie baby down on your bare chest and soak up the baby cuddles. Skin-to-skin has so many benefits for soothing baby and stabilising their body temperature but is also fantastic for mothers too for easing stress and aiding healing.
  • Recreate the womb. As much as you can, try and keep things as close to womb-settings as possible. Keep lights low, ensure the room is warm, avoid loud, startling noises and try some soothing, white noise.

The second night of baby’s life, like many moments during the fourth trimester, can feel like a real baptism of fire. Keep calm, remember that it will pass and know that you will get through this phase.

If you think that something is not quite right though or you are worried about baby, then trust your gut and contact your midwife for advice.

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