Lucy Dubrovsky gave birth to her son early in the morning on a cool November day last year. After spending much of the day holding him and staring at him for hours at a time, she finally went to bed for the night, not quite sure what to expect. As it turned out, she and her baby slept in three-hour chunks, and they both woke up feeling pretty good.
On the second night, back at home, Dubrovsky expected a repeat of the first night. But that’s not what happened. Instead, her son woke every 90 minutes. All. Night. Long.
It was a radical departure from the first night—which is pretty common.
Most mothers will look back on their first night after baby and remember drifting in and out of slumber, but often the second night is a totally different story. “Night one is a euphoric night,” said Jennifer Howting, a registered nurse in paediatrics based in Kingston, Ont. “But babies on night two wake up a lot more—they’re more alert and are ready to feed. The second night is when the exhaustion really hits [for parents].”
The first four weeks: what caring for a newborn is really like
Night two can bring a lot of crying. Baby is hungry and it can be difficult for some to figure out how to feed. Whether you’re offering the breast or a bottle, both can take time to master. That said, you may find your baby only wants to suck for a minute, then falls asleep—but soon after you put her down, she’s awake again. Your newborn likely just needs to be close to her parent; hold her, and as desperate as you are to get back to bed, try waiting until she’s in a very deep sleep before you put her down again.
After a night of almost no sleep, lots of crying and your boob being used a pacifier, you’re going to need support. Even if it’s not in your nature, force yourself to ask for help, whether you are still in the hospital or working with midwives at home. Use the resources available to you, such as doctors, nurses, walk-in clinics, public health centres, lactation consultants and family members. Some resources are also available even if it’s the middle of the night. For example, in Ontario, the 24/7 Telehealth phone line also offers breastfeeding hotline, with access to a nurse at any hour.
As it turns out, Lucy Dubrovsky’s newborn son gave her a rougher time on night three than night two. Still, many parents say the second night of their baby’s life was among their hardest night ever, so get through it however you can. You’ve got this.