There’s one thing that no-one can prepare you for when it comes to parenthood: and that’s witching hour. You might have heard rumours about it, or even laughed along to a couple of memes on social media, but until you are in the thick of it and ready to pull your hair out, you have never truly experienced this phenomenon. Don’t worry, help is on hand. With just a little understanding of what witching hour is and some tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can take a deep breath and ride the way right up until bedtime, where you can take that big sigh of relief.
What is the witching hour?
So, what is the witching hour? Don’t worry, your babies aren’t going to suddenly transform into witches. However, the very apt name does mirror the fussiness you can expect from them during this period of the day. Don’t be fooled. While it might be referred to as witching hour, this period can actually last up to three hours (gulp!). It really should be called the witching hours.
While naturally, some babies cry more than others, you can usually expect your little one to be extra fussy for no apparent (or solvable despite your best efforts) reason. Here’s what you might notice:
• Excessive crying.
• Red in the face, clenched fists, tense body.
• Difficult to soothe.
• Wanting to feed more frequently.
In short, there’s not much you can do to prevent newborn witching hour from happening!
Why does it happen?
No-one knows. If they did, surely there would be a fix-all by now! Experts often put it down to colic, reflux and gut sensitivities that can occur in those early weeks, but nothing has been proven.
What time is the witching hour? Witching hour usually occurs in the late afternoon/evening – that period of the day where everyone is already exhausted and perhaps even a little overstimulated from the day’s activities. This can spiral in a never-ending loop, as the more overtired your little one gets, the harder they are to settle.
The good news, the witching hour tends to improve vastly from about three months of age, so there is light at the end of the very long tunnel.
Tips to help with witching hour
Wondering how to manage the witching hour with your baby? While witching hour might be inevitable, there are still some handy tips and tricks that can make this period easier on everyone. Here’s some newborn witching hour tips.
1. Just add water
Have you ever been told this as a new parent? Just add water! It works a treat well into the toddler years and beyond. If your little one is upset, take them in the shower, enjoy a bath (or set up water play for toddlers). There’s something instantly calming about water, for both you and bub.
2. Forget the wrap
Wrapping your little one might work for you during the day, but when it comes to witching hour, it’s time to get crafty. Ergopouch is perfect: a zip-up sleep bag that your little one can’t worm their arms out of. Saves you the trouble of wrapping and re-wrapping as your fussy baby fights sleep – and may even just be the ticket to helping them drift off into a peaceful slumber.
3. Bring out the carrier
The carrier will become your new best friend during witching hour with a newborn. Naturally, it falls at the time of day when you need to be prepping dinner and getting ready for bed. Grab a comfortable carrier (a Moby wrap is a great, soft choice), and keep your little one close to you. Go the extra mile and enjoy a little skin to skin in the carrier to help settle them. Your baby will love being nice and close to you.
4. Prep early
Another way to stay on top of things during baby’s witching hour is to prep for dinner earlier in the day. If everything is ready to go, you can spend your time settling your baby without worrying about all the other things you need to be getting done. It’s amazing how this load off your mind can help you in a stressful period.
5. Feed, feed, feed
Comfort sucking is a thing, and when your little one is overtired and not sure what’s going on, a little extra feeding can be just what they need during the witching hour. It also offers you a break from the constant crying to regroup for the next round of settling your little one. If your bub is bottle fed, make sure they aren’t feeding too quickly. Lengthen out the feeds and slow the flow of the milk to avoid extra gas getting stuck and upsetting them even more.
6. Head outdoors
There’s nothing like the distraction of rustling, swaying trees, crickets, or even people walking down the street to stop your little one in their tracks. Plus, it can also help you to recharge with some fresh air. Head out and take some nice deep breaths as you sway your little one and cuddle them closely. You can even pop them in the carrier or pram and take them on a walk around the block.
Reach out for help
Of course, the witching hour can be overwhelming. No-one likes to listen to their baby cry for hours on end. Make sure you have a support system in place. Someone you can call when it gets tough and you just need to vent.
It’s also important to know that it’s OK to walk away. Leave your baby in a safe sleeping place and simply close the door to give yourself a moment to regroup. It’s hard. Once you’re ready, you can go back to baby and use the tips above to help settle again.
Witching Hour Baby FAQs
How long does witching hour last?
While the name suggests it only lasts an hour, realistically it’s about two to three hours long.
When does witching hour stop?
Witching hour tends to start at about 2 to 3 weeks of age (just when you think you’ve got the hang of this parenting thing). It then peaks at about 6 weeks, before disappearing altogether around 3-4 months of age. Gradually, you will start to notice your evenings are much easier to manage.
Do all babies go through witching hour?
If you chat to other parents, you’ll likely find that most, if not all babies, go through their own version of witching hour. For some, it might simply be just an hour of fussiness at the end of the day. For others, it’s incessant, non-stop crying. It’s important not to compare yourself to others and get the mistaken idea that you must be doing something wrong if your baby is the latter end of the scale. Every baby is different.
Surviving wiching hour isn’t easy, and sometimes the best option is to reach out for a little extra help when it comes to reading your baby and their cues. You can review my packages here for some one-on-one support, check out my newly released ebook here, which focuses on babies aged 0-4 months, or get in touch and book a free chat here to discuss any sleep challenges you might be having with your little one.