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What is the Witching Hour in Babies and How to Survive It

Baby calm during witching hour using tips to calm baby during this fussy time.

As your day wraps up, you might find yourself bracing for the onset of your baby’s witching hour. You know – that time when your evening calm is often pierced by your baby’s inconsolable cries, and no amount of cuddling or rocking seems to do the trick. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and a bit helpless during these nightly episodes, you’re not alone. This blog is here to offer a guiding hand. We’ll explore the reasons behind the witching hour, share tried-and-true soothing techniques, and discuss how creating a supportive environment for yourself is just as crucial as calming your baby.

The Witching Hour in Babies Decoded

If you’re a parent, you’ve likely encountered the witching hour. It’s that period when your usually calm baby becomes inexplicably fussy and sometimes impossible to calm. This phenomenon, often occurring in the late afternoon or early evening, is what many refer to as the ‘witching hour’. Despite its mysterious name, the witching hour is a common part of infant development, and understanding it can help you navigate this challenging time with a bit more ease.

When does a witching hour happen?

Typically, the witching hour strikes between 5 PM and 11 PM although it can vary for each child. One moment your little one is all smiles and coos, and the next, they’re inconsolable. This period can be particularly tough for parents, as it often aligns with the time you’re winding down from your day, helping older children with homework, or preparing dinner. Knowing when to expect these fussy periods allows you to plan ahead and arm yourself with strategies to soothe your baby.

Witching hour symptoms

During this time you might notice:

  • Increased crying: Your baby may cry more than usual, sometimes inconsolably.
  • Resistance to soothing: Even tried-and-true methods may not calm your baby, and they may seem more sensitive or reactive to usual stimuli.
  • Clinginess: Your little one might want to be held more often and may seem unhappy when not in your arms.
  • Cluster feeding: Babies may want to breastfeed or bottle-feed more frequently, yet seem unsatisfied.
  • Restlessness: Your infant might have difficulty settling down, showing signs of discomfort or agitation while resisting going to sleep.

Understanding these symptoms can help you better prepare to comfort your baby during these trying times.

How long will my baby’s witching hour last?

While the witching hour can be an intense part of your day, it’s important to remember that this phase is temporary. Typically, the witching hour begins when babies are about 2 weeks old and usually subsides around the 3-4 month mark. During this period, the episodes of fussiness are mostly confined to the late afternoon and evening hours. Knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel can provide a sense of relief and help you navigate this challenging phase with a bit more patience and resilience.

Possible reasons for the witching hour in babies

The exact cause of the witching hour is not known for sure, but it’s believed to be due to a number of possible factors:

  • Fatigue: Just like adults, when babies are overtired, they can have a harder time settling down. An overtired baby might fight sleep, leading to a fussy, crying period before they finally rest.
  • Overstimulation: After a day of new sights, sounds, and experiences, babies can become overwhelmed. The witching hour may be their way of unwinding from all the sensory input.
  • Digestive discomfort: As babies’ digestive systems are still developing, issues like gas or acid reflux can become more pronounced in the evening, leading to discomfort and fussiness.

Navigating the witching hour requires patience and a bit of trial and error. Each baby is unique, and what soothes one may not work for another. However, understanding the when, what, and why of this fussy period can equip you with the knowledge to face this challenging time with confidence, making it just a bit easier to soothe your little one (and yourself) through those witching hour woes. 

Strategies to Soothe Your Baby During their Witching Hour

Understanding the witching hour is the first step, but knowing how to soothe your little one during this fussy time is equally essential. Here are some strategies that can help you calm your baby and possibly make the witching hour a bit more manageable.

Soothing techniques during your baby’s witching hour

Every baby is unique, but certain time-tested techniques often help in soothing a fussy infant:

  • Swaddling: Wrapping your baby snugly in a blanket can mimic the coziness of the womb, providing a sense of security.
  • White Noise: A consistent, soothing sound can help drown out other stimuli and gently lull your baby towards calmness.
  • Gentle Rocking: The rhythmic motion can be incredibly comforting, reminding your baby of the movement they felt when they were in the womb.

Experimenting with these methods can help you discover what works best to comfort your baby during their most unsettled times.

Routine for easing your baby’s witching hour

While it might seem early to start routines with a newborn, establishing a predictable environment can be beneficial:

  • Predictability: A consistent routine can help your baby feel more secure, as they know what to expect next.
  • Future Success: While it’s probably too early for strict schedules, gentle routines can set the stage for easier transitions and better habits as your baby grows.
  • Consistency: Even simple things, like dimming the lights and reducing noise as evening approaches, can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down.

Nutritional considerations during the witching hour

Feeding plays a crucial role during the witching hour, and certain tips can help alleviate your baby’s discomfort:

  • Responsive Feeding: Pay attention to your baby’s hunger cues and try to feed them before they become too fussy.
  • Proper Burping: Ensuring your baby burps properly after feeding can help relieve any gas or discomfort that might contribute to their fussiness.
  • Comforting Position: Holding your baby upright during and after feeding can help if they’re experiencing digestive discomfort like acid reflux.

By combining soothing techniques, establishing a comforting routine, and addressing nutritional needs, you can create a more peaceful environment for both you and your baby during the witching hour. Remember, while this phase can be challenging, it’s also temporary, and with patience and care, you’ll both make it through. 

Creating the Right Environment to Manage Your Baby’s Witching Hour

Navigating the witching hour often involves tailoring your baby’s environment to meet their individual needs. Some babies like gentle distractions, while others may benefit more from a peaceful atmosphere. 

Distraction with lights, sounds, and motion

A bit of sensory engagement can sometimes redirect a baby’s attention during the witching hour. Introducing a new stimulus like the calm light from a lamp, the hum of a familiar tune, or the gentle sway of a rocking chair might just be the solution. These elements can provide a welcome distraction that can help shift your baby’s focus and reduce their fussiness during the witching hour. 

Creating a soothing space to prevent overstimulation

When it comes to managing the witching hour, less can often be more. For babies easily overwhelmed by their surroundings, crafting a calming atmosphere can be the key to comfort. Consider dimming the lights in your living space, minimizing noise, and engaging in quiet activities. This sets a tranquil tone throughout your home. By creating these serene environments, you’re not just easing your baby’s transition to sleep; you’re also establishing a routine that can help make future witching hours more manageable.

Finding what best suits your baby’s preferences can be a process of trial and error, but once you hit on the right combination, it can make all the difference during the witching hour.

Supporting Yourself During Your Baby’s Witching Hour

Getting through the witching hour can be a true test of endurance, not just for babies but for parents too. Remember, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your baby.

Self-care strategies

During those evening fuss-fests, finding a moment for yourself can make a big difference. Managing stress is key, so find a few moments for some deep breathing or a comforting cup of tea while your baby is settled. These brief breaks can recharge your patience and resilience, making you more prepared to face those challenging hours.

Seeking and accepting support

Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to. Whether it’s swapping turns with your partner, getting the grandparents to come over, or Face Timing with a friend, don’t shy away from asking for and accepting help. Connecting with parent groups can also be a great outlet, providing you with tips and solidarity from others navigating the same nightly challenges.

Knowing when to get professional help

If the stress of the witching hour feels overwhelming, it might be time to consult a professional. A sleep coach can offer specialized strategies for your baby’s sleep troubles, especially if the usual soothing tactics aren’t working. And for any persistent concerns about your baby’s well-being, your pediatrician is your best ally. They can guide you through this phase, ensuring both you and your baby find your way to easier, more peaceful nights.

Looking after yourself isn’t just good for you; it’s good for your baby too. Keeping your stress in check means you can be there for your little one, ready to face those challenging evenings together.

This Witching Hour Too Shall Pass 

Witching hour can test your limits, but it’s also a phase that strengthens the bond between you and your baby. Each strategy you employ is not just about finding immediate calm, but about building a foundation of comfort and trust. Remember, this challenging time in your baby’s life is just a phase, and with the right approach, patience, and support, you’ll find your way through it. Your resilience and love are powerful tools in this journey, bringing quiet to the chaos and fostering a deep connection with your little one.

Struggling during witching hour with your baby? Reach out to the Tender Transitions team and we’ll be happy to help your family get the sleep it needs.

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