How to Contend With Your Baby’s Witching Hour
Does your little one tend to start fussing at around the same time every day? You might be contending with your baby’s witching hour. The good news is, witching hour is fairly common and there are lots of great strategies you can use to help your baby get through it. In this article, we’ll break down what witching hour is, when it tends to happen and why. The best part? We’ll share our favorite tips and tricks to help you and your little one get through the tears as quickly and easily as possible. Peaceful nights are ahead - keep reading!
Table of Contents
- What is baby’s witching hour?
- When is baby’s witching hour?
- What causes baby’s witching hour?
- Tips and tricks for getting through baby’s witching hour
What is baby’s witching hour?
Witching hour is the time of day when a baby who is otherwise fairly content becomes more fussy than usual. Witching baby hour typically occurs between the hours of 5:00 PM and 11:00 PM, although every baby is different.
When is baby’s witching hour?
Newborn witching hour typically starts at around 2 - 3 weeks of age. The behavior often peaks at around 6 weeks of age. By around 3 - 4 months of age, you should notice the behavior start to taper out.
What causes baby’s witching hour?
Experts aren’t certain what causes witching baby hour. It’s likely that the causes vary between different babies. However, there are a few commonly cited theories about why newborns tend to get especially fussy in the late afternoon and evening hours.
The first theory is that overtiredness is to blame. By the evening, your little one may have emptied their ‘sleep tank’ which can cause the release of a stress hormone known as cortisol. This cortisol surge makes it more difficult for you to soothe your little one when they begin to fuss.
Newborns typically feed more right before bedtime as a way to prepare their bodies for a longer sleep period. The fussiness you experience during witching baby hour may be the result of your little one demanding these cluster feedings before bed.
A newborn’s digestive system doesn’t function as well as an adult’s which means they can be susceptible to a build-up of wind and gas throughout the day from taking in air during feedings. By the evening, this may be starting to make your little one feel uncomfortable.
Newborns process so many new and different sights, sounds, and sensations throughout the day. It can quickly become overwhelming when adjusting to life outside the womb. By the evening, your little one may start to feel overstimulated causing the witching baby hour.
It is certainly possible that the witching hour is caused by a combination of factors like overtiredness, digestive upset, and overstimulation that are unique to each child. By trying out different techniques, you’ll likely discover what your child is most sensitive to and be able to get ahead of this fussy period and set your little one up for a successful evening routine. With that in mind, let’s discuss a few tips and tricks to help you get through witching baby hour.
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Tips and tricks for getting through baby’s witching hour
Set up a great sleep routine
Overtiredness is one potential witching hour culprit. So, get ahead of this trigger by establishing a solid sleep routine for your little one. Using wake windows as a guide for how long your little one should be kept awake between sleep periods is one method you can use to regulate your child’s daily sleep routine. A bedtime routine is another great way to help your body begin to unwind and prepare for sleep. That’s why it’s helpful to get your child started with some nightly rituals and routines early in life. Establishing these healthy habits during your baby’s bedtime will help set them up for restful and restorative nights.
Overstimulation is another commonly suspected witching hour culprit. The great news is, this is a fairly easy one to fix. If you suspect that your baby’s fussing might be the result of overstimulation, make some changes to your little one’s environment. Dim the lights, do your best to eliminate any loud noises, and minimize unnecessary movements like people coming and going from the room your child is in. You might be surprised at how effective these simple switches can be when you’re trying to soothe your baby.
Feed more frequently
When your little one is especially fussy, you may miss some of the feeding cues you might normally have easily identified. Since it’s common for babies to want to feed more often before bed, try increasing the frequency of your feeds during your child’s witching hour to see if this helps them settle.
Use white noise
White noise machines can help mimic the types of sounds your baby became accustomed to while in the womb. So, if you suspect that your baby might be overstimulated, try adding a white noise machine to the mix during the witching hour period. If you don’t have a white noise machine, you can try turning on an appliance that makes a similar noise. Washers and dryers often do the trick!
Get some fresh air
Whether you’re a newborn or an adult, getting a little fresh air can turn things around in an instant. If you’re having trouble soothing your little one, try taking them out for some fresh air in their stroller to see if the change of scenery helps. If your baby fusses at the same time every day, you can even try and get ahead of the tears by taking your baby out an hour or a half-hour before they tend to start fussing.
Take care of yourself
The first few months of parenthood can be difficult, especially if you’re in the middle of a fussy phase. Your little one will pick up on your frustration and stress levels, so it’s important that you take care of yourself and find ways to decompress when you can. The calmer you are, the calmer your baby will be. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and don’t feel guilty for taking time out of your day to care for yourself. Both you and your baby will be better off for it. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Coping with witching hour can be difficult for many parents but, it’s important to remember that this period will not last forever. Take it one step at a time and don’t be too hard on yourself. These bouts of tears are very normal. In time, with a little trial and error, you will find ways to soothe your child, and you and your little one will conquer witching hour together!
Frequently Asked Questions
Both colic and witching hour begin at around 3 weeks of age and tend to resolve by 3 - 4 months of age, however, they are markedly different in other ways. Colic is typically defined as a baby who cries for 3 or more hours a day, 3 or more days a week, for 3 or more weeks at a time. The crying is often far more intense in colic than in witching hour and a colicky baby is far more resistant to soothing than a baby who is experiencing witching hour. A colicky baby will also often exhibit physical signs of discomfort like back arching and tensing of limbs which are rare in a witching baby hour.
The PURPLE crying period is a stage many babies go through where they cry for longer periods than normal and become very difficult to soothe. The term was coined by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome and is actually an acronym that was designed to help parents better understand this often frustrating developmental period.
The letters in the PURPLE acronym stand for:
Peak of crying. The peak of crying behavior typically occurs at 2 months of age.
Unexpected. During the PURPLE period, crying is often hard to predict and difficult to explain.
Resists soothing. It will likely be more difficult to soothe your little one during this period.
Pain-like face. Your baby will often look as if they are in pain during these crying episodes but are typically not.
Long lasting. These bouts of crying will usually last longer than normal during this period.
Evening. Your baby will likely be most fussy during the evening hours.
Like so many things in parenting, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. There are a number of different strategies you can employ when you are soothing or sleep training your little one. It’s up to you as a parent to figure out what works best for your child. As you and your baby get to know each other and try out different routines and techniques, you will start to learn how best to soothe and sleep train your baby.
It is possible that you may be one of the lucky few parents whose baby does not experience witching baby hour. However, it is a fairly common occurrence for newborns from the age of around 3 weeks to 4 months. So, it is likely that your little one will become fussier in the evening hours. The good news is, there are lots of great tips and tricks you can try out to help you and your little one get through the evening hours without too much fussing - many of which are covered in this article!
There is no single fool-proof technique that can calm a crying baby in 15 seconds. However, there are a number of strategies you can try out with your little one to see which gives you the best (and quickest) results when trying to soothe your baby. Here are a few we recommend:
Try swaddling your little one. If you haven’t tried this technique before, check out our blog post on how to swaddle your newborn.
If swaddling doesn’t do the trick, here are a few alternative techniques you can try to help soothe your little one to sleep.