Before I had my first baby I had never heard of "second night syndrome." After she was born, though, I received a crash course. My darling angel turned into a raging demon. She was hungry, you guys, and I didn't sleep at all as a result of her insatiable hunger. Looking back, I'm still not sure how I survived. The next time around I knew what to expect, and probably because I learned the rules for surviving the hell that is second night syndrome. Not surprisingly, it was so much easier, you guys. Even though I was still tired, and even though my baby was ridiculously hungry, I was way more confident as a mom. I knew what to do, and what not to do, so that I could get some sleep. It was magical, and further proof that, as a parent, I could overcome anything. Yes, even second night syndrome.
I've since learned that so many new moms, like me, get the wrong idea about how to approach the second night of their babies' lives. Honestly, it's not all that surprising. When "baby-friendly" hospital policies require us postpartum women to breastfeed, and room-in with our babies when we are freaking tired and our babies are freaking hungry, we don't really get a chance to rest after the countless hours of labor and delivery and learning how to take care of a helpless newborn. All of this feels like too much to handle on no sleep less than 48 hours after having a baby, and for good reason.
I recently had my youngest baby and, thankfully, minus a few feedings he slept like a champ the second night of his life. There were no tears, no constant breastfeeding, and no second night syndrome. The difference? I knew what I was doing, and now I am going to share that insight with you. You, too, can survive second night syndrome, and here's how:
Rule Number 1: Feed Your Baby
Whether you plan to breastfeed, formula-feed, or do a little bit of both, the first rule is feed the baby in whatever way works for the two of you. Unlike the second night with my first two babies, when my youngest baby was clearly not getting enough breast milk. The answer to my problem? I supplemented with formula. I learned that it's OK, and sometimes necessary, to call in reinforcements. Not only will it not hurt breastfeeding, it would actually help us breastfeed.
Rule Number 2: Trust Your Instincts
No matter what your nurses, lactation consultant, friends, or family say about it, "cluster feeding" — feeding continuously for hours — is not normal. If your baby is attached to your breast for an entire night, they are uncommonly fussy, or they can't stay awake long enough to eat, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) says they're probably aren't getting enough to eat because either your milk hasn't come in or they can't latch. The first time I gave birth I knew something was wrong, but I let people tell me my daughter was OK and eating well, even when she wasn't. I should have trusted my instincts.
Rule Number 3: Tag Out
Motherhood doesn't have to mean martyrdom. It's not just OK, it's imperative that you take a break once in a while. On your baby's second night of life, ask your partner, a nurse, a friend, or visiting family member to hold the baby while you take a break to get some sleep, take a shower, eat something, or even just take a breath. Trust me.
Rule Number 4: Don't Ignore Warning Signs
According to the Fed is Best Foundation, there are clear warning signs that your baby needs help in their early days of life, including but not limited to: excessive crying, nursing continuously, sleepiness, weight loss, not enough wet and dirty diapers, and jaundice. If you learn the signs and know when to get help, you can not only prevent a hungry baby and a frantic night of lost sleep, you can save their life.
Rule Number 5: Get Help
Whether you are home or at the hospital on your baby's second night, it's your job to keep your baby healthy and safe. That means asking for and accepting help if something seems wrong. Don't be afraid to ask for formula and/or a breast pump so you can supplement, letting your partner take a shift with a fussy baby, or telling your nurse or doctor that something is not right. Asking for help can feel so hard in the early days of motherhood, but it's not a sign of failure or that you're bound to have a difficult time being someone else's mom. In fact, it's totally a sign of success.
Rule 6: Keep Breathing
When I ran my last marathon, and things got unbearably hard, I kept breathing. I told myself that if I kept breathing, I would survive. One breathe, then another, for a minute, then 10 minutes, then five hours more. Breathing through the pain, and trusting the fact that there was a finish line in my future, helped me finish the race.
Your second night with your baby can definitely feel like a marathon. Keep breathing, new mom. Trust me when I say it'll help you make it through and calm your frayed nerves.
Rule Number 7: Use All The Tools In Your Toolbox
Breastfeeding is hard, navigating baby sleep issues is damn-near impossible, and trying to figure out how to soothe your baby's cries? Yeah, it's not always second nature, especially on your baby's second night of life. I learned to try just about anything — from baby carriers and pacifiers to swaddling blankets and white noise machines — to see what works for my baby.
Rule Number 8: Find A Mantra
When things get hard on your baby's second night, and they very well might, remember: you can only do what you can do. Nobody's perfect and you are doing a good job. You can do this.
Repeat these things to yourself, the whole night if you have to. Believe it or not, once you survive the second night, things will get easier and with every day that passes. You live and learn, and pick up more than a few hacks, tips, and rules to help you make it as a mom.
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