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Why Your Baby's Second Night Sucks And What You Can Do About It

Photograph by Twenty20

Most of parenting is trial by fire, and those first few days with a new baby are no exception. I didn’t sleep at all my first night in the hospital because I was a new mom and paranoid about the sleeping infant sleeping in the bassinet beside me. I managed to get some quick naps in that second day, when my daughter sweetly snoozed on my chest for the most of it.

But that second night, all hell broke loose.

She wailed. She screamed. She was generally inconsolable unless she was on my bare chest under a blanket and even then, she had moments of pure unhappiness, latching and unlatching as she nursed. I finally broke down at about three in the morning while my husband tried in vain to walk her around our room. My night nurse chose that moment to breeze into the room and we told her that the baby had been fussing all night and I wondered if she wasn’t getting enough of my colostrum. She turned from her computer to face us and cheerfully said, “Oh yes! This is totally normal for the second night. Did you read the insert in the welcome packet?”

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Say what, now? Why does no one warn you about your baby’s second night? I mean, besides from a sheet of paper inside a folder placed on your bedside table after you’ve expelled a human being from you. Ain’t no one got time to read that.

Here’s what I found out: The day of delivery, babies are pretty chill and usually behave themselves that first night. On the second night, however, your baby has suddenly realized they are no longer in the womb. The shock of being born is starting to wear off and after being handled by multiple people all day and wearing those adorable clothes you bought her, she’s really starting to miss being back inside you, hearing your heartbeat and floating in the darkness. But two things she does recognize is the sound of your voice and that lying on your chest is the closest she can come to being back in the womb.

First of all, know that the fussiness is completely normal.

So it would explain my daughter’s intense cluster feeding and wails when I tried to put her back in the bassinet so I could sleep. It would explain why she was so fussy and no amount of walking her around by my husband could calm her. Would knowing in advance about the second night struggles have made her less fussy? Probably not. But would it have saved me from feeling like a complete failure or thinking something was wrong? Maybe.

So what helps? What can you do to get through that night?

First of all, know that the fussiness is completely normal. That your baby is behaving exactly how they are expected to after birth. Second, hold your baby, skin-to-skin, as much as possible, because that's truly where they're the most secure. Keep your baby’s hands free as much as possible. It’s calming for them to be able to use them to explore your breast and actually has a positive impact on bringing in your milk. Don’t worry about them scratching their skin. Finally, let your baby nurse as much as they want and know their fussing has nothing to do with you not producing enough milk.

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Most hospitals frown upon letting you bed share with your baby, so if you must put them back, wait until they are sleeping and gently unlatch them, letting them snooze on your chest until you are sure they are in a deep sleep for you to quietly move them to the bassinet. Or you be like me, and wait until the nurses scold you for letting the baby sleep on your chest. Hey, you probably aren’t getting much sleep in the hospital anyway, right?

But most importantly, know that this too shall pass, Mama.

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