You may be wondering what is Second Night Syndrome – not to worry!  It is not a term for illness or something being wrong with your newborn. Instead it is a term used to describe a normal sleep disturbance that many parents, but not all, observe in their newborn during the second night of life.

Welcome to the World Little One

Often for the first 24 hours of a newborn’s life, he is very sleepy and drowsy as a result of stress from the birthing process. As newborns move into the 24-48 hour period of life, they begin to understand that their environment has changed drastically and this new home outside of your womb can seem very overwhelming to them in comparison. Your newborn is now able to move much more freely, is encountering light for the first time, is hearing many sounds other than your heartbeat, and starts to experience hunger cues. As he recognizes this hunger while also feeling overstimulated, you may see an increased level of fussiness and irritability in your newborn, which often kicks off during the second night of life.

Second Night Syndrome Behaviors

Some behaviors that may clue you in that your newborn is feeling the effects of Second Night Syndrome are an increase in crying, wakefulness, and feeding frequency. Likely he is tired and wants to sleep, but managing stimulation from his new environment along with hunger is preventing him from the deep sleep he craves. This is completely normal and understandable when you consider the extreme change a newborn undergoes when he is born.

How to Best Support Your Newborn

Here are some suggestions for helping you to best support your newborn and meet his sleep and hunger needs in his early days of life:

Cluster Feed to Get Through Second Night Syndrome

Try not to worry about the amount of milk your newborn is getting. Offer your breast often for as long as your newborn desires to help your milk production to match your newborn’s demands. This cluster feeding behavior is what your body needs to stimulate breast milk production. If you are formula feeding, small but frequent feedings are a great way to meet the demands of a newborn cluster feeding in his second night.

Provide Skin to Skin Time

Offer skin to skin time frequently. This is an amazing soothing technique that provides immense comfort to newborns in their early days. A tight swaddle simulating the snugness of the womb is another great tool for soothing a fussy newborn to sleep.

Let Baby Bond With Mom & Dad

Enjoy alone time bonding with your new baby. Of course so many loved ones want the opportunity to meet your new addition, but it can be a lot for a newborn to take in if he is being passed from person to person.  Allow him the first week to really become familiar and bond with you and your partner, the people he already knows.

Play Familiar Sounds

Incorporate familiar routines and sounds into your newborn’s day and night. If there is music you often played while pregnant, play it now that your baby is here for him to recognize something familiar.  Whooshing womb and heartbeat white noise sounds are also great for bringing familiarity into your newborn’s unfamiliar environment.

It Doesn’t Last Forever

Remember this adjustment will not be forever. Typically, a mother’s milk starts to come in by Day 3 of a baby’s life and by Day 5 likely your newborn’s belly will be able to hold closer to 2oz of milk versus the marble size capacity of Day 2. Offer lots of snuggles and reassurance during these first few days and weeks after your newborn’s arrival. Try your best to sleep yourself when baby is able to sleep independently.

For more help navigating Second Night Syndrome and the early week’s of bringing your newborn home, please reach out to Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny. Our Newborn Care Expert Team offers overnight sleep support. 

This article contains amazon affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

About The Author

Courtney Poirier is a veteran Newborn Care Expert with Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny. She has many years of experience with sleep conditioning and coaching in daycare & home settings. Prior to working with babies, she was an elementary school teacher. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their two sons.  One is seven years old and the other is nine years old.