baby's second night has a baby crying and very fussy

Have you ever heard of “Baby’s Second Night“?  It’s a normal pattern of fussiness and cluster feeding that occurs around that 48 mark in a baby’s life. This is an important topic we cover with clients in our prenatal appointments as their birth doulas or childbirth educators.  But, as we continue our support as Postpartum and Infant Care Doulas, I can tell you, that it’s not unusual for us to get a phone call from our clients after baby’s second night concerned about the fact that they just can’t put their baby down.

The first 24 hours…

The first 24 hours of a baby’s life is typically pretty relaxed. As families head into the next night, parents find that baby will not settle and is wanting to nurse non-stop! When this happens, it can sometimes cause the new mom to think “Oh no! I don’t have enough milk to feed my baby!” and/or “My baby is in pain!” and both mom and partner are likely thinking “What do we do?”

It is important to keep in mind
that when your baby is born
they are completely dependent on you for survival.

Unlike many other mammals who can stand, walk or swim immediately or shortly after birth, human babies are more like kangaroos. Baby kangaroos are born under-developed and instinctively crawl into their mother’s pouch to continue to feed and grow. We like to call this time in a baby (and mother’s life) the 4th trimester. This is when baby needs to be at the chest to feed and in the arms of their parents for skin to skin cuddles. This allows for continued development outside of the womb.

So, what exactly is happening during “Baby’s Second Night” that makes it so universal ​that it has earned its own name?

During their first 12-24 hours after birth, babies are pretty tired. They’ve had a long journey, and up until birth, they were being fed through the umbilical cord. Though the first few breastfeeds after a baby is born are important for maintaining baby’s blood sugar levels, they are more tired than they are hungry. However, come baby’s second night, not only are they truly experiencing hunger for the first time (and everything that comes with that: a growling stomach, gas, cramping, etc), but baby may also be feeling a little anxious about being separated from his/her mother. Remember while in utero, baby was able to hear your heartbeat, your breathing, the sound of your voice, and all of the little digestive noises from inside your body.

young mother holding a crying baby trying to get through baby's second night

As you can imagine, it can be quite a shock to now be living “earth side”!

So go ahead a let your baby snuggle and suckle, and take shifts holding your baby skin to skin. These nights are tough but serve a greater biological purpose, including helping your colostrum transition to full milk.

Read:  “Baby’s Second Night” by Jan Barger, RN, MA, IBCLC, FILCA

Sarah Baker is a the co-owner of Lifetime of Love Doula Services. She has been supporting families for almost a decade as a birth doula, postpartum & infant care doula and childbirth educator.  She is mom to three boys, twins and a singleton.