‘Second night syndrome’: What new mums need to know

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how to understand a baby's cries

Those first precious hours after a baby is born are usually filled with happy hormones and excited family oohing and ahhing over your adorable new addition.

But that glorious newborn bubble often bursts on night two with what many new mums call ‘second night syndrome’. It’s a steep learning curve that means constant feeding and not much sleep for anyone.

Mum’s Grapevine expert midwife Edwina Sharrock explains why the second night for newborns is often the toughest and shares tips on how to try and avoid it.

What is second night syndrome?

As a midwife I believe this sounds scarier than it actually is. Let me explain what is actually happening for you and for your precious new baby so you can both manage this first 24-48 hours.

When babies are born, most will have quite an alert period for the first 1-2 hours (this will depend on the birth of the baby and any medications used by the mother in labour. There are two contributors to why night two is often so tough:

1. The normal physiological behaviours of a newborn

Remember you and your baby are incredibly well designed and the reason bub is alert is to have a feed, meet mum and then often bub will have a 12-24 hour period of deep sleep.

This is a normal process for bub and then after this bub will wake up and begin to start processing all the new, sounds, smells, lights etc in the world outside the womb – which, when you think about it is a huge deal. This is a time when bub will want to be cuddled and reassured often with frequent feeding and not wanting to be out down except on mum or dad’s chest.

2. The flood of endorphins from the mumma

This is the time for mum and her support person to rest and recover as well. Mum also has a flood of endorphins (happy, feel-good hormones, that are actually a natural pain relief and can create an amnesic effect) in the birth and peaks at actual birth.

After the birth these endorphins flood from the mum’s body and can cause mum to feel exhausted and often emotional. It is often at this time that mum realises she has been running on a fair amount of adrenaline and excitement (totally fair enough – you have a new baby).

How to prepare for night two

So now you know why night two can be super challenging but what can you actually do about it to get prepared and soften the blow so the speak.

Limit stimulation

I teach all my Birth Beat mums and dads really practical ways to limit how stimulated bub gets in the first 24 hours. Limit the stimulation and you limit the amount bub has to process and it leads to a more calm baby in those early days. Do this by:

  • Lots of skin to skin with your baby – bub in a nappy on yours or dad’s bare chest
  • Limit visitors and please limit cuddles – every new visitor sounds, smells and feels different for your bubba and it is a lot to process.

Take care of mum

Try to sleep and or rest in the first 24 hours and prepare yourself mentally that the first few nights bub may be feeding and fussy often. The old saying of sleep when they sleep could not be truer than at this stage. I know this is hard and you want to share with the world your incredible baby but please know there is plenty of time for this.

I see so many mums full of adrenaline and endorphins and buzzing around entertaining lots of visitors on day one only to be left with a very fussy tired baby who has been handed around all day and mum has had no sleep for night two.

Mummas, remember you have run a marathon takes time to rest, recover and get to know your baby.


Edwina Sharrock a registered midwife and mother of two. She’s also the founder of Birth Beat – an online antenatal course that is simple, easy and convenient to watch from the privacy of your home. Birth Beat includes prenatal yoga, a complete prenatal course, plus breastfeeding, sleep and settle. All delivered to you in easy to watch videos.

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