Second Night Syndrome is a phenomenon that occurs during the second night of a newborns life. The first night, babies tend to be deceptively "good". They are still recovering from the birth so they sleep for longer stretches. However, after a day of nursing and recovery sleep, they're beginning to realize they're no longer in familiar territory, and they've got the energy to let you know. Many babies are reported to cry, and cluster feed that whole second night. The second thing that plays into second night syndrome is that around that next morning, babies tummies are getting a little bigger, so they're ready for mature milk, rather than the concentrated colostrum, which drives them to nurse CONSTANTLY! This cluster feeding is by design, as the more stimulation your breasts and nipples receive, the better your milk supply will be! So...how does one survive the Second Night Syndrome?
Nurse, Nurse, and Nurse Some More!
Babies need alot of comfort that second night. They've been evicted from the only home they've ever known! It's cold, their bodies are going through tremendous changes, there's alot of sounds and sights that are new. It's understandably terrifying. Your body and your breast release oxytocin and endorphins for them, which are calming hormones! They physically need to be near you. There is no such thing as a spoiled baby, so continuing to nurse, hold, rock, and sing to your baby has no adverse effects, and only helps your bond. In addition to comfort, baby is nursing to signal your breasts to produce the higher volume mature milk that their little body is beginning to be ready for! This is why it's important to resist the urge to supplement! So many parents believe that baby is unsettled because they're hungry, so they supplement with formula or donated milk. This supplementing removes the stimulation your breasts need to establish supply! Especially this early in the game. So the number one way to protect supply, and support your baby is to nurse, nurse, and nurse some more!
Protect The Nips!
Unfortunately, all of this nursing can come with some sore nips. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Latch. It is so important to have a proper latch. Not only can a poor latch not give your breasts poor stimulation, leading to poor supply, but it can cause alot of pain and other issues for both you and your baby! For my top tips related to latch, check out this blog post.
Nipple Butter. Putting on a quality nipple butter that is safe for both you and baby (lanolin is NOT safe for ingestion!) is really important to help keep your nips moisturized and comfortable.
Limit the friction. Whether this be with a shirt or a bra, anything that rubs on your nipples can increase soreness. There are metal/plastic covers you can get to help prevent this, but a fan favorite is to just go topless for a while. Let em breathe.
Get Some Help.
You do NOT have to go this alone. This support can be from a doula, a partner, or any trusted friend or family member. Here's a few ways they can support you:
At night, you can take turns! They may not be able to nurse baby, but they can take the baby to another room to give you a few minutes of respite. A handful of 30 minute naps are better than no sleep.
Prepare. Creating a postpartum plan for meals, rest, support, and everything else can really help take some of the load off. It's one thing to get no sleep. It's another to get no sleep, while stressing about not getting sleep. Prepare support ahead of time so the lack of sleep isn't something to stress about!
If you have help during the day, sleep. Even if your baby isn't sleeping, as long as baby isn't eating, you can try to get some rest with someone else there!
If Baby is feeling extra fussy, they can try some of these tips to help soothe baby.
Take Care Of Yourself
This night is tough, and baby needs so much from you! It can be easy to forget that you need to be taken care of too! Especially since you're recovering from Childbirth! The saying "You can't pour from an empty cup" absolutely applies here. Here's a few things to try and remember to do for yourself:
If you need to - take your pain meds! It's so hard to care for someone when you're in pain for yourself. If your provider has prescribed them, or recommended them for you, don't forget to take them! If you prefer non pharmaceutical remedies, work with your herbalist or other provider to know what's safe for you and baby.
Eat and Drink! Nutritious food and water are so important for recovery and breastmilk production. Snacking is a great way to keep your energy up throughout the night.
Get Comfy - hang out in your favorite chair or place with baby. It makes it easier for you to nurse and soothe baby, and if you're already comfy, it's easier to snag a few minutes of rest during the windows your baby is asleep!
Woah. What now??
Yup. Rule number one is always "Feed The Baby" no matter what. If your baby is showing signs that your milk is not enough (some signs are lethargy, dry mouth, poor weight gain, but ask your provider for specifics) then it may be a good idea to supplement. This doesn't mean the end of your breastfeeding relationship though. There's many reasons your body might be a little behind on producing milk. The first being: YOU JUST BIRTHED A HUMAN. Your body is recovering from a major physical event, and producing milk takes alot of energy. Sometimes it's just a bit too much to expect your body to do both. That's ok.
But this isn't just about baby. You matter too! Your baby needs a healthy mom/parent more than they need breastmilk. If your physical or mental health is suffering, then it's ok to supplement. Again, this doesn't have to be the end of your breastfeeding relationship! It's amazing how helpful one 3 hour stretch of sleep can be in those early days! If that means giving your baby one bottle of formula to achieve that, then that's fine! Alot of moms are even surprised that after getting some real sleep, their milk comes in, and they go on to have an amazing breastfeeding journey! It's not all or nothing!
Tips for Supplementing:
Keep a secret stash of formula and bottles before baby is born, just so you never find yourself needing it, but not having it.
Work with a pediatrician, or IBCLC to know how much to feed baby
Whether it's just one feeding to make it through that second night, or you supplement often, replace that feeding with one pumping session so you're still getting that nipple simulation!
If supply is a concern, reach out to a IBCLC as soon as possible! Early intervention is key!
Be Kind to yourself. It's easy to feel like you've let yourself or your baby down. That is NOT the case! It is never wrong to do what's right for you and your baby!
Second Night Syndrome can be tough, but knowing it's coming, gathering support, and taking it one moment at a time are all so helpful!
Did you experience Second Night Syndrome with your baby? What did you find helpful?
This article is not medical advice, and is not meant to replace the advice from your provider. If you have any concerns, always reach out to your medical provider.