After some babies are born, there is a serene, suspended and perfect piece of time — the first 24 hours or so — when he or she seems to settle into the world blissfully and quietly. Then, for many, the second night of life hits like a hurricane. All of a sudden, your new infant has the lungs of a banshee, and those piercing cries may continue unabated for hours.
New parents, welcome to initiation. My husband and I were completely unprepared for those rousing, restless, hunger cries, and the brief moments of second-night sleep that were further stolen by nurses doing overnight checks and administering painkillers.
Why the Drama on Night Two?
So what is it about that second night that causes such a dramatic transition in some babies?
First, the hard work of labor affects babies as well as their mothers. Babies often sleep deeply in the hours after birth, and by night two, they are becoming aware that life as they knew it in the womb has changed radically. Moreover, they’re hungry, and just learning how to eat; they don’t quite have the mechanics down yet. Your baby, if breastfeeding, also is surviving off of colostrum (breast milk comes in later), which, while nutrient-rich, is produced in small quantities. Therefore, it’s needed often.
What To Do…
Experts in pediatrics may have varying advice on how to settle your baby on night two, and likely will recommend a ready source of food and skin-to-skin contact (dads can cuddle with baby too) to keep the baby warmer and more comfortable. Skin-to-skin also gives mother and infant the “best start” for breastfeeding, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
With that said, your health matters too. If you need help, there should be resources on hand at the hospital, particularly if your maternity ward offers a nursery. If your baby is breastfeeding, the nurses will bring him or her back to you in time to eat, but the respite away might offer a chance for a little rest for weary parents. Lactation support also should be available (likely in the daytime hours) if you are having trouble nursing.
Remember to stay calm. It was in those twilight hours of the second night that, as a new mom, I began to fight my own rising panic. As I attempted to quiet my baby, I was recovering from childbirth too, and trying to adjust to the discomforts of breastfeeding. In addition to that, new mothers battle dramatic hormone changes, including steep declines in estrogen and progesterone, which can contribute to mood swings and postpartum depression.
A Wild Ride Ahead
You and your baby are existing now in a wild, challenging reality, but a wonderful — and temporary — one too. Stay steady in the knowledge that you both will acclimate to your new normal… and while the second night of life might be a shock, it also is fleeting. Once you return home, you will start to establish a routine, and your baby will begin to sleep longer stretches of time as well.
So here’s to the second night. Never again will your baby be two days old, with his or her eyes open wide for the first time to an endless expanse of new beginnings. Savor this first taste of parenthood. There will be so many more unpredictable, frustrating, amazing and captivating moments of come.