Did your typically content baby just become fussy and inconsolable out of nowhere? If so, he or she might be experiencing what is known as the witching hour for babies. Most babies appear to be mostly content and happy all day, and then all of a sudden fussy and inconsolable for a few hours during the evening.
With my first, I had no idea what the witching hour was or even how to help. This time can be overwhelming and discouraging for new parents because all you want to do is make your baby feel better. I wish someone would have told me about the witching hour in babies so I could have been more prepared!
What is the Witching Hour?
As a new mom, you may find yourself wondering, what is the witching hour? The witching hour for babies is a period of time (typically the late afternoon into the evening- 5 pm to 12 am) where your baby may start out grunting and fussy, then all of a sudden escalate to crying and screaming. Some babies might respond well to soothing, while others are inconsolable for this period of time.
At times, the witching hour can feel never ending. You may feel tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged. I have been there and you are not alone, but the good news is that the witching hour does end!
The Cause: Why do babies have witching hours?
An important way to better understand, and thus make it through the witching hour for babies, is to understand why it is even happening.
Here are some of the most common causes:
1. Your Baby is overstimulated: Overstimulation for newborns is very common and can happen if your baby is taking too much in through their senses. This can be that their environment is too loud or bright, or they’re being touched too much. Their nervous systems aren’t mature enough and they cannot yet self-soothe or calm down.
2. Cluster feeding is occurring: Cluster feeding is when your baby wants to nurse more often than usual. It may seem like hours at a time! Your baby may be having a growth spurt and wants to nurse as much as possible.
3. Tummy troubles: Not only is your baby’s nervous system new but so is her digestive system! If you are nursing, something you are eating (dairy, leafy greens, broccoli) may be causing your baby some tummy trouble. The baby may have a gassy tummy that can be quite uncomfortable.
4. Your baby is overtired: If your baby is not yet on a good sleep schedule or has missed naps throughout the day, she may be overtired. Overtired babies are often irritable and cranky during the witching hour.
5. Your evening is busy: The hustle and bustle of a busy evening can be too much for a baby to handle. Usually, around this time older siblings or your significant other is getting home from being away all day, dinner is being made, and your baby may not have as much attention as she is used to.
6. Growing baby: Your baby may be going through a growth spurt, requiring more sleep and more nutrients. Several growth spurts typically happen during the peak weeks of the witching hour for babies.
7. Your milk supply may be low: If you are nursing and not producing enough milk your baby is probably hungry. There are many different things that can factor into having low milk supply. However, no matter the reason, if your baby is hungry she will be cranky!
Do all babies have a witching hour?
Nearly all newborns experience a witching hour. Some babies may only be fussy for an hour or so, and some babies may be completely inconsolable for several hours. The severity of your baby’s witching hour may vary from day to day.
What age does the witching hour stop?
There isn’t necessarily a specific age for the witching hour to end because all babies are different. Most say that the witching hour peaks at around 6 weeks from the due date and ends around 3 months old.
Signs that your baby is experiencing the witching hour
- Crying for seemingly no reason
- Cluster feeding
- Unable to console
Tips and Tricks
So now that you know what is going on with your sweet baby, let’s dive into some tips and tricks to help:
1. Sleep: Establishing a good sleep schedule is so important to avoid the baby being overtired. Newborns should have 3-5 naps a day lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. It can be challenging to get your baby into a good sleep routine, but will definitely pay off in the end!
2. Breastfeed: Not only does nursing bring nutritional benefits to your baby, but it also brings comfort. The baby may want to cluster feed for comfort or to signal your body to produce more milk.
3. Establish a good routine: A good daily routine will help prevent sleep schedule issues and establish consistency. Solid daily routines will look different for every family, but finding one that works is key in preventing overstimulation and promoting a good sleep schedule.
4. Tag team: The witching hour is not an easy time. As a mom you may be thinking this stage will continue forever. If possible, tag team with your spouse or significant other. I know you want to be the one to comfort your baby, but the constant fussing can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
5. Get outside: Someone wise once told me that if your baby is fussy and inconsolable, go outside. Something about just stepping outside, going for a walk, hearing the birds chip and feeling the breeze is so refreshing for little ones.
6. Burp your baby: Even if you burp after every feed, gas bubbles can still be trapped. You can try different methods of burping your baby (sitting up, laying on the forearm, laying over your shoulder) if you think she may need to burp.
7. Try a Pacifier: Suckling releases sleep hormones for babies and helps to establish their circadian rhythm.
8. Try to reduce your own stress level: The witching hour for babies can be so trying on your patience. If you need to, put your baby in a safe space and step away for a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths, stretch and then come back. Our babies are deeply connected with us and can feel our stress.
9. Gripe water: If your baby is experiencing tummy troubles, gripe water can help to move gas down and relieve some pressure. With my first, I had no idea what gripe water was. I desperately searched the aisles for something that would help. Gripe water has been a life saver for my baby’s upset tummy.
10.Try bicycle legs: Put your baby on her back and start moving legs in a bicycle type motion. Bring her legs gently into her tummy and then extend. Repeat this process several times. It might take your baby a little bit to get used to, but this will help to move gas down if it is trapped in their belly.
11. Put baby on your skin and snuggle: Being skin to skin is not only comforting for newborns, but also has many other benefits. Skin to skin helps to promote bonding, regulation of body temperature, and regulation of blood sugar.
12. Try a quiet dark room: Being in a quiet dark room can help to calm down your baby’s nervous system, especially if she is overwhelmed or overstimulated. The quiet and dark room will likely remind your baby of the womb and be comforting.
13. White noise: The shushing sound of white noise can help calm your baby. Use a sound machine to produce that noice. You can also whisper “shhhh” noises loudly in their ear.
The witching hour for babies can be a challenging time for moms, dads, and babies alike. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with the witching hour is key to managing and getting through this stage. Remember, this is just a stage and will not last forever! Have you experienced the witching hour? Let me know in the comments below what worked best for your family!