As a new mother, you know that your new baby is going to cry. It’s part of the package. But could you imagine your baby crying continuously for an hour or more? It is possible, and it’s called the Witching Hour.
Dealing with a fussy baby can be overwhelming. The best way to handle this is to first accept that some babies go through this! This has nothing to do with you or your parenting skills.
Second, try to understand why it is happening and what you can do to avoid the witching hour. If you assume that there is nothing you can do, you will lose out on the opportunity to solve the problem. This can be emotionally draining.
What Is The Witching Hour For Babies?
The baby witching hour refers to a period of time each day when very young babies cry uncontrollably. During this time, you may feel helpless because no matter what you do, it may seem impossible to comfort your baby.
If you are a nursing mother, the witching hour may mean your baby is constantly at the breast, cluster feeding. Often, your baby will still be fussy and frequently pull away from the breast.
The term “witching hour” can be deceiving. For some babies, this difficult period does last about an hour each day. For other babies, the crying can last a few hours.
When you are a new mother and you don’t know what is going on, this period can be especially difficult. However, knowing that the witching hour is common is somewhat comforting.
When Does The Witching Hour Start?
For most babies, the witching hour starts about 2-3 weeks after birth. It often peaks by the time your baby is 8 weeks old. This can be a difficult time for new parents, who are just getting used to taking care of a new baby.
The baby witching hour usually occurs in the late afternoon or evening.
What Causes The Baby Witching Hour?
There are a few things that could potentially cause your baby to be fussy:
Your Baby Could Have Colic
Colic is typically caused by gas. This can make a baby very fussy. It is not uncommon for colic to happen more frequently in the evening hours. If you sense that your baby’s fussiness is due to colic, take steps to try to reduce gas.
How To Reduce Colic:
- Burp your baby multiple times during feeds, rather than just after a feed.
- Hold your baby upright after feeds to help with digestion.
- If your baby is on formula, consider changing the formula.
- If your baby is breastfed, adjust YOUR diet. Very often, it is a mother’s diet that causes discomfort for breastfed babies. For example, cow’s milk in your diet can cause your baby discomfort. Speak to your pediatrician if you suspect this.
Your Baby Could Be Hungry
This seems obvious, but new parents are tired and often need gentle reminders! Feed your baby on demand to ensure the little guy/gal is not fussing because they are hungry. If you are breastfeeding, feeding on demand will help you maintain your milk supply.
Your baby may also be going through a growth spurt, and therefore need more milk.
Wanting to nurse several times at night is also very common. This is called cluster feeding.
Your Baby May Be Overtired
Over-tiredness is often a cause of fussiness.
Newborn babies need a ton of sleep. Some newborn babies sleep as much as 18-20 hours a day! Their little bodies are growing quickly and they need that rest. You may find that your baby may sleep better at night if he/she gets the sleep they need during the day.
By making sure your baby gets enough sleep, you may be able to avoid the witching hour.
Your Baby May Be Overstimulated
Babies are just getting used to using their senses. Loud noises, strong smells, bright lights, and other big sensory things can overwhelm your little one.
Effective Ways To Deal With The Baby Witching Hour
Stay Calm And Get Comfortable
Your mood can affect your baby’s mood. If your baby senses that you are stressed, he/she is likely to feel stressed too. Staying calm is easier said than done but do try.
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is very normal and that this is only a short phase in your little one’s life.
Make an effort to get yourself comfortable. Get into some pajamas and make sure you eat and drink when needed. Your needs are just as important as your baby’s.
Being comfortable will relax you–if only a little bit.
If You Are Nursing, Nurse On Demand
Breastfed babies tend to demand the breast during this time. Sometimes, they constantly seem to fuss and pull away while nursing. This is normal.
Your baby’s fussiness does not necessarily mean you do not have enough milk or that you have a nursing problem. If your baby is nursing fine at other times of the day, it is likely that his/her mood is a result of the witching hour.
The fussiness will work itself out over time, but do contact your pediatrician if you suspect your baby’s fussiness is digestion related.
Create A Soothing Environment
Remember that your baby just left the most comfortable environment possible – the womb. In your womb, your baby had everything he/she needed and never felt discomfort.
Try to simulate the womb by swaddling your baby. Turn down the lights and turn on some soft white-noise. Hold your baby close, because even your scent will remind your baby of the womb.
Let Your Baby Get Lots Of Rest
Fussiness can be caused by your baby being overtired. Avoid waking your baby.
In the first few months, babies are supposed to sleep very often. Let him/her get the sleep they need all day long to potentially avoid any fussiness later in the evening.
Create A Bedtime Routine
While very young babies do not necessarily need a routine to fall asleep, they may start to feel comfort from the familiarity of a routine. A typical routine may include bath, bottle, and books, in the same order every night. Over time, your baby will begin to expect these things and may feel comforted by them.
Do Not Overstimulate Your Baby
Younger babies prefer soft, gentle activities. Turn off the tv, bright lights, and loud sounds.
Change Your Baby’s Environment As Needed
Sometimes simply stepping outside your house can immediately stop a baby from crying. It may be one of the fastest ways to turn his/ her mood around. Whether it is the fresh air or the temperature change, it often works like a charm.
Take A Soothing Bath
Some babies find baths very soothing. Not only might this calm your fussy baby, but it may also help him/her sleep better if done just before bedtime.
Be sure to set up the bath with the right environment–a warm, low-lit bath will go over much better than a cool bath in bright lighting.
You will start to catch on very quickly to what time your baby’s witching hour begins. It will seem like clock-work every single night. While this can be frustrating, at least you know it is coming.
Be prepared by making sure you have everything you need for yourself and the baby. Make sure you are comfortable and well-fed so that you can spend that time focusing on your baby.
Also, make sure you have everything you will need to calm your baby. After just a few nights, you will see what works best and you will want those items on hand for when the fussiness begins.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Educate your husband/ partner about the witching hour. Perhaps you two can switch days so you each get a break. Or, you may prefer to take your baby every 30 minutes or so. Whatever works best for you two will also be best for the baby.
If you do not have a partner at home, try to enlist a friend or family member for help.
This phase will not last forever, but it sure can feel like it. Ask someone to come over to relieve you when needed.
Taking care of yourself is important and taking breaks is part of your self-care.
How Long Does The Baby Witching Hour Last?
The good news is that this fussy phase does not last long.
It is different from baby to baby. Some babies start late, some end late but most babies seem to outgrow the witching hour at around 3 or 4 months of age.
While this can seem like an eternity, this time will feel like just a small hiccup in the long run. Also, if you figure out how to deal with your baby’s witching hour, this period may not be as horrible for you.
Note From The Author
This is a comprehensive list of ways to soothe your fussy baby. However, if you’ve tried a few of these methods and they don’t work, do this:
- Try a few more. All babies are unique. What works for one may not work for another. Keep trying until you figure out what works for YOUR baby.
- Remind yourself that even though your baby is crying, he/she is loved. This difficult phase may drain you as a mother, (and a person), but it will not last. Have faith Momma! You are strong enough! A year from now, you will hardly remember this phase.
As a mother of 5, I hear you! I experienced the witching hour with my first 2 kids but not with the other 3. I believe the reason is that I learned a few tricks. You can figure it out with your first baby!
My advice to you is to follow the basics. Feed your baby, make sure their diaper is clean, let your baby sleep as needed, and do not over-stimulate him/her.
I realize that it’s very tempting to over-stimulate a baby but this is what I believe leads to that witching hour. Your baby cannot simply “turn off.” When your little one is tired, he/she cannot simply “go to sleep.” It doesn’t work that way for babies. YOU have to preempt all your baby’s needs.
Create a routine and follow it. Your baby will come to recognize the routine and that routine will become your best friend in preventing the witching hour.
And when you feel your lowest and utterly drained, turn to moms who have been through the same thing as you. It will make you feel less alone.