I'm almost 100% sure that you would've experienced or at least heard of the "witching hour".
If you haven't, the "witching hour" is known as a time in the evening from approximately 5pm to 11pm where your baby has difficulty settling and can get extremely fussy. It is also widely
known as the time in the afternoon where your sanity leaves the building and you question everything you thought you knew about this parenting gig.
All jokes aside it can be a hard challenge to navigate, let alone daily! Mention the phrase "witching hour" to other parents and they will give you the slow nod of sympathy as they recount the hours (yes, plural
) they spent pulling out every trick in the book to settle their baby. During witching hour it seems everything that normally soothes your baby doesn't work.
As I always say each baby is totally different and some parents may not experience this at all with their baby (I KNOW). The good news is that this challenging period eventually comes to an end. "Witching Hour" often begins between weeks 2 or 3 (so if you've got a newborn at home, start taking some notes!). It usually peaks around 6 weeks and then ends at around 3 months. However, kids of all age
can be have difficulty settling around bedtime.
But why is witching hour a thing? What is it that makes our little ones SO fussy??
There are a number of factors that contribute to this:
- One of the most common reasons is overstimulation - in most houses the tempo seems to pick up in the late afternoon/early evening. This is when family members return from home or work, there's more conversations going on, the sound of the TV might be louder, the evening meal is being prepared and so much more. There is a lot going on and this overstimulation can be too much for same babies to handle.
- Your baby is too tired - especially around the newborn to 12 week age bracket and in particular, the late afternoon/evening AKA "witching hour". Babies at this age are especially hard to soothe when they're overtired because they're releasing cortisol and adrenaline into their bloodstream making it harder for them to settle.
- Low milk supply - Some mums find that their milk supply is lower in the afternoon which means that you may be feeding for the same time but your baby isn't getting as much nutrients as they normally would. This could definitely lead to a hungry and frustrated baby who wants more feeding time.
While it may seem you have been stuck in the same cycle of tears and disarray, the good news is, there are things that can calm you and your little one during this time.
Tips to master the "witching hour"
- Decrease stimulation - the afternoons can be as crazy as they are with preparing dinner, everyone coming home after the day etc. Consider if the environment is too stimulating for your baby. Try avoiding bright colours toys/mobiles during this time to help with this.
- Fresh air - this can help you just as much as it can help bubs. Fresh air and change of scenery can be a great option to press the resent button and calm your little one (and you) down. Strap them to you or pop them in the stroller and go for a peaceful and relaxing walk.
- Motion - such as rocking, patting, swaying, pushing in the pram are all great ways to settle and soothe your distressed bub.
- Cluster feed - if you baby generally feeds every 2-3 hours they may have a bigger appetite in the evening. That is fine! As mentioned, your milk may be slower in the evening so just relax and your milk will let down.
Remember, this is something that will only last for about three months and if you have a bit of an idea about what is actually happening with your baby you'll have a better handle on the situation. The most important thing is to prepare for it, have a plan in place of a few different things you'll try (such as those above) and stay calm throughout this period (I know easier said than done!).
While it can be distressing to see your little one crying for hours on end, just know that "witching hour" is a perfectly normal phenomenon, there's nothing wrong with your baby and it will pass. These evenings of non stop crying will soon seem like a distant memory!
If you find that you're struggling with "witching hour" or if you're about to become a mum and want to get on top of all this newborn sleep, they my Newborn Sleep Program
is for you! It's an online course that will educate, nurture and support you through the first trimester with your newborn. I'll answer your sleep questions, help you establish healthy sleep habits and get you to embrace and love the slow and beautiful 4th trimester. Check it out here.