Welcome to the wonderful witching hour; we hope you enjoy this stay. However, it’s highly doubtful that you will find anything enjoyable about this stage in your child’s life. Years ago, the witching hour was a time when supernatural creatures, like witches and demons, were thought to be powerful.
Nowadays, witching hour refers to a particular time every evening when your baby suddenly seems as if a demon possesses him. It is more than just simple crankiness; it can turn into hours of screaming and parents desperate for a break.
You see, the witching hour doesn’t typically last an hour. Rather, it can last between two and four hours, every single night. My second child’s witching hour began promptly at 6 p.m. and ended right around 10 p.m. Sometimes; I could watch the clock and see him settle down after the previous four hours of insanity.
Unfortunately, nothing typically calms your baby during this period. Feedings sometimes help, but rarely. Pacifiers get spit up. Lullabies cause him to scream louder. His little face is so red with crying, and you are sure he is about to explode like a balloon.
Some parents experience it a little differently. My third baby nursed from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. almost straight! I had to camp out in the recliner and just wait for it to be over.
What Leads to a Witching Hour?
Unfortunately for parents, experts have yet to determine the exact reason for witching hours. There are plenty of theories, but we have no definite answer.
- Colic is what most people claim is the reason behind the witching hour. Colic is typically considered to be caused by stomach and intestinal trouble that leads to gas. Colicky babies tend to have periods of very intense crying, assumingly because of their tummy pain. These periods are typically in the evening. Many babies experience colic, but there are very few methods to help your child through it.
- Overtiredness: The last thing you want is an overtired baby. Newborns have unique sleeping patterns. If they aren’t getting enough sleep, it could lead to a horrible evening of fussiness and crankiness. The more sleep he misses, the more he will scream and cry. An overtired baby doesn’t fall asleep quickly because their system is flooded with cortisol and adrenaline. You will have to battle your little one down to sleep. Try to avoid your baby becoming overtired at all possible. Make sure they are getting the appropriate amount of sleep each day.
- Overstimulated: The world is overwhelming for a newborn. His mother’s womb was cozy and the perfect environment. Now, he is faced with a multitude of sights, sounds and smells every single day. It is no wonder that your baby feels scared at times, and they easily are overstimulated. On busy days, expect your little one to experience some troubles. Try to help him relax during these hard days.
- Cluster Feeding: Breastfeeding mothers often experience cluster feedings in the evening. There are quite a few reasons for this. If you notice that your baby is breastfeeding every 30 or 40 minutes, this could be the culprit. Don’t assume you don’t have enough milk for your baby! However, the fat content is higher at night, and the milk flow can be slower. Some children find this frustrating. However, they are still getting the appropriate amount of calories. It just takes more time to get all of that fatty goodness that is so essential for your child’s development and growth.
How to Survive the Witching Hour
Since there is no exact reason for the witching hour and not solid way to stop or prevent it from happening, you have to create some methods of survival. It is going to happen. Chances are you won’t avoid it. Being prepared for it is the best solution.
Through these hard weeks, remember that this is just a stage. It is highly doubtful that your six-month-old will still have these episodes. It is a guarantee that your nine-month-old won’t. It will soon be a terrible memory. Here are some ways to help cope with this difficult stage.
- Hope for the Best but Plan for the Worst
This method works for nearly anything. When I leave the house with my kids, I always pack for the worst but hope for the best. The newborn stage is tough for parents. Having an inconsolable baby for hours every day is frustrating. You can hope that your child doesn’t experience this problem. In all likelihood, you probably won’t be that lucky.Since there is no definite way to help your baby through this, plan for the worse. You can still have a movie night; keep the subtitles on! Invite your parents over; they can lend an extra hand during those hard hours.
Have a glass of wine! Yes, even breastfeeding mothers can enjoy an alcoholic beverage! The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that a mother can drink two hours before breastfeeding. Typically, 8 ounces of wine is fine. If it helps you relax, do so.
Remember, you are hoping for best, but you are well aware that the worst can happen. Your baby may cry until 2 a.m., but it will end at some point. I promise.
- Comfort Feed
While there are some “experts” who don’t advocate for comfort feeding, it sometimes is truly necessary. Throw those darn books out of the window, and comfort feeds your baby as much as they want! There is no terrible habit that you are creating. You are ensuring your child has a full stomach.Also, if your child has reflux, the milk helps to soothe their burning throat momentarily. They often want to nurse as much as possible to feel relief. Comfort feeding helps your baby to relax. If you want this period to come to an end, you need a relaxed, full and sleepy baby.
- Use a Baby Carrier
If there is one product I recommended to every parent, it is a baby carrier. I’m not sure if I could survive with three kids without one! Throughout the day, it keeps your child close and gives you both of your hands-free to complete other tasks. They are indispensable.During the witching hour, a baby carrier keeps your baby close. He can hear your heart beat. You can gently rock, bounce, sway, or a variation of whatever works. Baby carriers are snug, and they keep the baby in an upright position that decreases the likelihood of spit up or reflux. Both parents can take turns wearing the baby in a carrier!
- Get Outside
Everyone needs fresh air and some Vitamin D throughout the day. Unless the temperature outside is in the negatives, taking your baby outside is an excellent way to cope with the witching hour. Fresh air underrated!Many cultures and parents believe their children sleep better with a daily dose of fresh air. I can attest to this fact. The more that all of my kids are outside, the better they will sleep that night.
There is some scientific thought behind this theory. When you are outside, you are breathing in an increased amount of oxygen. It is a great thing for our lungs, brain, and our entire body to have an increase of oxygen. After a few hours, you may feel sleepy. It could be because your body has been doing extra work pumping the additional oxygen throughout your body.
When your baby starts to cry, sit outside on a swing and cuddle them. It may not stop them from crying immediately, but the movement of the swing and the sounds of nature may lull them. Throughout the day, it would be a great idea to make a habit of taking an afternoon stroll.
- Take a Warm Bath Together
For adults, taking a warm bath or a hot shower relaxes us after a long day. Doing the same for your baby during the witching hour may extend the same benefits. Keep the lights down lower, turn some music on, and try to relax with your child. Yes, they may cry, but try your best to relax and make the time enjoyable.Skin-to-skin is extremely beneficial for babies. Many hospitals advocate for parents to spend as much time with their baby skin-to-skin, also referred to as kangaroo care. Some of the fantastic reasons to try this are:
Increase in bonding time
Reduces postpartum depression
Helps to lessen the amount of crying a baby does
Helps the baby sleep better
Reduces the stress level of the mother
Betters the breastfeeding relationship
Keeps blood sugar regulated
Keeps baby’s body warmer
As you can see, the benefits to skin-to-skin are amazing! All parents, not just those with a fussy baby, should practice it throughout the first months of their child’s life. Your child will love this special time, and you will as well.
- Develop a Plan
I am a planner by nature. Everything needs a plan, and the witching hour is no exception to that rule. You already know you are going to experience a crazy baby for a minimum of two hours. So, what are you going to do?First, you need to try a variety of peaceful methods. Some babies are totally inconsolable, but some will respond to an individual thing. The trouble is finding that soother that they love.
Your baby may love movement! Try bouncing on an exercise ball or rocking in a chair. Buckle your child into their car seat and swing your baby in it. No, you don’t want to launch them across the room. A wide arc is typically good enough, and they are safe.
Some babies just want to suck and suck for hours. As we mentioned before, don’t feel bad about comfort feeding. It can lead to sore nipples if you breastfeed, so be prepared with some nipple cream for afterward. Try a pacifier! It might sound strange, but some babies love to suck on their parent’s pink finger.
Try turning on some sound. A white noise machine is a great addition to your nursery. Some babies love the sound of the vacuum. Put them in the baby carrier and vacuum all the floors in your house. A blow dryer is also a favorite.
These are just a few of the many different ways to soothe your baby. Don’t be afraid to try one or ALL of them.
- Enlist Other People to Help
If you have family nearby, the witching hour is a great time to enlist the help of your friends and relatives. Once you know the typical time frame, ask them if they would be willing to come try to give you and your spouse a break.If you are a single parent, finding other people to help can be hard. However, don’t ever be afraid to ask! There are plenty of people out there who are willing to help, especially with a fussy baby!
For spouses, it is also important to remember that you are a TEAM. When one is ready to break, switch off. One parent shouldn’t carry the burden of dealing with the witching hour every single night. That is a surefire way to make your spouse go crazy. Let one person step back and take a hot shower, while the other spouse handles the baby.
What to Remember
Every night, you should repeat this mantra: This Too Shall Pass.
Yes, the witching hour is a super hard time for parents. Besides the physical and mental drain you are experiencing, it is emotionally draining to watch your precious child cry for hours at a time. It is as a parent to want to fix whatever is wrong. This period will break your heart, but remember it is normal.
Your best bet is to use a variety of our seven survival methods. I highly recommend having a plan and trying a range of soothers. Something is bound to help, even if it is just waiting for your baby to grow out of it.