Nothing in this life compares with the feeling of having your newborn baby lying on your chest.
The oxytocin is flowing and there’s an exchange of warmth and love between mother and baby.
After birth and the first hour, many newborns slip into rest for the next day or so.
Your new baby will stir a bit, and suckle a little every few hours, but she is often content to be in your arms, at your breast or even wrapped and placed in the bassinet.
She had to shift and turn and bear the contractions. She had to adjust to breathing, suckling and maintaining her body temperature.
Now, on the first day, baby needs rest as she gets used to life outside the womb. She needs a little colostrum, the first breastmilk; she has built up energy stores during her last weeks in the womb to help with the transition.
But what about your baby’s second night?
Depending on where a mother has given birth, she’s often home by the second night.
If she had a home birth, by the second night her experienced support people have usually gone. If she’s still in the hospital, she continues to recover in an unfamiliar place with a not-so-settled baby.
Why is the second night so hard? What happened to the sweet and settled newborn who was laid upon your chest just yesterday?
Why Your Baby’s Second Night Is So Hard
The sweet baby using her energy to breathe and maintain body temperature is most likely well adjusted now.
What about the baby who suckled only briefly? Her instincts tell her she needs to increase your milk supply gradually, to meet her body’s growing demand for milk.
And the contented baby lying wrapped in a bassinet? She’s alert enough for her instincts to warn her she can’t smell her mama or hear her mama’s heartbeat. This means she’s vulnerable and alone. Sure, we know she’s safe in your room, but her natural instincts don’t tell her that. For all her instincts know, a hungry predator might be nearby.
You still have the sweet freshly born baby you had yesterday, but now she’s a bit more alert. Your ‘good’ baby hasn’t gone; she’s learning to demand what she needs. This is good. It’s also difficult.
The oxytocin high is wearing off. Sure, you’ll have plenty of oxytocin flowing while having skin to skin, breastfeeding or staring into her eyes.
However, the euphoric high you experienced the moment your little one landed on your chest was because your oxytocin level had hit a peak.
The effects of interrupted sleep during the past 36 hours are catching up with you. You still feel the physical discomforts of birth recovery.
You’ve lost your euphoria. You’ve lost sleep. And you’ve lost some of your help and support.
And now your little one has demands.
How To Survive The Second Night After Birth
The purpose of this article isn’t to terrify new mothers. Sure, your baby’s second night can be challenging, but it’s better to know what to expect, and realise it’s normal. Then it’s less of a shock when it does happen and makes the night a bit easier.
Often the biggest reason your little one is waking and demanding so often is she’s trying to increase your milk supply.
This isn’t because you aren’t making enough milk. It’s simply because your baby is designed to teach your body to produce what she needs, by suckling. Within a few days, many mama and baby pairs find their first feeding groove; it will change each time a baby reaches a new stage.
BellyBelly lactation consultant, Renee Kam IBCLC, says:
“It’s common for breastfed babies to feed 8-12 times in a 24 hour period, although some feed as few as 6 times and other as many as 18.
“It’s also normal for babies to have cluster feeding periods, where they feed many times within a short period of time (e.g. 4-5 feeds within a few hours). During such times, your baby might cry a lot, not settle easily to sleep, or only sleep in very short bouts.
“If your baby is positioned and attached and feeding well, and is showing reliable signs of getting enough milk, the frequency of feeds doesn’t matter – just be guided by your baby.
“If your baby isn’t positioned and attached or feeding well, or isn’t showing signs of getting enough milk, then the frequency of your baby’s feeds might not be optimal.
“Feeding frequently, particularly in the early days, helps you to build a good supply. Having a good supply early on correlates with having a good supply later”.
To learn more, be sure to read The Early Days Of Breastfeeding – What’s Normal And What’s Not?
Things You Can Do
How do you survive the second night?
Meet baby’s demands for being at the breast. I know it’s hard. I know it’s tiring. However, many mamas find the more they let the baby be at the breast in the early days, the more content baby is and the easier the following days become.
Keep baby attached or near the breast. It helps with milk supply, temperature regulation and even a baby’s breathing patterns.
Reassure your baby. As baby begins to realise her cries will be quickly answered, you’ll keep her belly full, and you’ll be there to comfort her, she will gradually become more secure and a little less demanding.
Hunker down. Settle into bed and be prepared to snuggle, feed and change nappies. Ask your partner, mother, doula, or whoever your support person is, to feed you and help meet your needs.
Take a break, or a nap. It’s okay to have someone else settle babe for a bit while you rest.
Know that it will get better. The more time baby has at the breast tonight, the easier the next night will be. And the night after that.
The early nights are hard. If you have a jaundiced, or early term baby (36-38 weeks) you might still have a settled night. Once the jaundice clears, and she catches up, you might find one night your baby suddenly wakes and you’re shocked at how much harder that night is.
How Do I Survive The Third Night? The Fourth? And The Rest Of The Postpartum Period?
The reason the second night is the hardest probably isn’t because it gets easier the third night, but that we’re caught off guard. We had a moment of pure bliss snuggling our newborn, and then suddenly, just one day later, she became quite demanding.
It takes time to heal from pregnancy and childbirth. And it takes time to find a groove with your tiny new human being. It also takes time to get enough rest while you’re managing night feeds and daytime demands.
I won’t say there’s a way to make it easy, but there are ways to make it easier.
BellyBelly childbirth educator and doula, Sam McCulloch, says:
“The first days following the birth of your baby are usually a blur. The demands of pregnancy and labour take hold – you’re exhausted and on a hormonal rollercoaster. Paired with the raw knowledge you’re now the centre of a tiny vulnerable human’s world, it’s no wonder many women feel completely overwhelmed by their new status as mother.
“The World Health Organization describes the postpartum period as the most critical phase in the lives of mothers and babies, yet it’s the most neglected. In today’s busy world, women are expected to be on their feet within days of giving birth”.
She goes on to discuss taking a postnatal month and describes the benefits it has for both mother and baby. Even if your life makes it impossible to have a postnatal month, you can apply her words of wisdom and practical advice to your situation, whether you take a week or whatever time you have.
The first days and weeks are often so incredibly challenging because we have the unrealistic expectation we’ll be back on our feet and ready to carry on our typical life. Often, by the second night we’ve entertained a stream of family visitors, who want to meet baby but don’t offer any actual support or practical help.
Continue to hunker down in bed with your baby. Take time to heal. Ask for help. Keep baby close and feed on demand. The more you rest, and the more you feed, the easier the coming days and weeks will become.
Be sure to read Why You Should Have A Post-Natal Month After The Birth to learn more.