Let’s start by saying I am so sorry you are here on my site looking at this post. I have been there feeling all the frustrations, dread, and exhaustion while your heart breaks trying to do anything you can to calm your fussy baby. Just know there is light at the end of the tunnel and I am here to show you the way. It was not long ago I was in your shoes and I picked up a few successful methods along the way to successfully survive the witching hour. You got this mama!
What is witching hour?
I hate that it is called witching hour because honestly it isn’t just one hour. It is usually several hours between 5pm and 11pm where a normally content baby becomes super fussy. Not only are they fussy during this time frame but they are extra hard to comfort and settle down.
Why Does witching hour happen?
There is so much research out there with about a million different opinions on why this period of fussiness happens. Some of the more common theories are over stimulation, hunger, or gas.
Personally, I think that it is just such a huge developmental period for babies where they go from just being born and sleepy all the time to suddenly being aware of things around them. I feel like it is just so much for them all at once and they don’t really know how to cope.
Whatever the reason may be, all any mom want’s is to help them through it and move out of this stage!
When Will witching hour end?
Usually the witching hour(s) will happen a few times a week (or everyday if your unlucky like I was). It starts roughly from two weeks of age and lasts until about three months old. Let’s just pause here. Just because it can last that long doesn’t mean it will! Every baby is different and that time range is just an average. Just know if you are in the middle of a red faced unhappy baby every evening, it does get better, and there are things you can do to help!
What can i do to survive the witching hour?
My baby had HORRIBLE witching hours. Everyday around 3pm I would get totally stressed out just dreading what was to come. It was like clockwork that at 7pm she would just be miserable until around midnight. Some nights were better than others, but often she would be red faced crying until she fell asleep from exhaustion.
On a mission to end both of our misery, I started paying a ton of attention to every little thing she did and you know what? I figured out how to stop the witching hour before it began! Here are things you can try:
Look at your routine
Is your baby simply overstimulated or overtired? This is one of the major causes of the witching our. Babies need sleep and if they don’t get enough of it they actually start to fight going to sleep and become difficult to settle. There are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening:
Watch for Sleep Cues
Newborns have sleep cues that they show us before they become overtired. Picking up on these signals can help you put your baby down before they become overtired. Some earlier cues for a tired baby are:
- Red eyebrows
- Blank stares
- Rubbing eyes
- Starting to fuss
- Pulling ears
If you do not pick up on these signs your baby will start to show signs of being overtired such as arching their back, becoming rigid, and uncontrollable crying. So try and pay attention to the earlier cues!
Follow wake windows instead of designated times for naps
Newborn’s do not have a circadian rhythm at this age, so if you just expect them to go to sleep at 8am, 10am, 12pm, etc. for the day they will become way overtired.
A wake window is how long your baby is awake from one nap until they fall asleep again. This is the ideal window before your baby gets overtired.
There are several different ranges for wake times, but a good way to determine what is an appropriate wake window for your baby is to watch for their tired cues. Once your baby starts displaying early signs they are tired, put them down for a nap right away. The time from when they wake up to when they started showing signs of being tired is their ideal wake window. Try and use this after every waking to form your babies schedule for the day.
Don’t Keep Your Baby Up Through the Day
So many parents believe the myth that if they keep their baby up all day then they will sleep better at night because they are tired. This is simply not true! Please don’t do it, your baby will become over tired and you will both have a sleepless night.
If you are breastfeeding your baby might be experience a witching hour because they are actually hungry! Breast milk changes throughout the day and often by the early evening the “hind milk” which is the high fat and calorie rich portion of breast milk is less than earlier in the day. This means that even though your supply is fine, it might take more milk to keep baby feeling full.
Check out my post on becoming a breastfeeding expert here.
How To Cluster Feed
Since babies have such small tummy’s at this age the can’t just increase the amount they eat at one sitting. So what is the solution? Cluster feed them! This is when you breastfeed your baby at an increased frequency than what you usually would. Don’t worry though you wont have to cluster feed forever! This style of feeding will actually boost your supply so baby gets what they need when they need it.
You can see in the sample schedule how cluster feeding maintains a similar schedule for baby’s sleep pattern only it allows for baby to breastfeed more often. This keeps their little bellies full.
Not sure if breastfeeding is right for you? Check out this post on the benefits of breastfeeding for mom!
Look For Patterns
I felt SO silly when I realized my baby was starting to become fussy every single day after her bath. Your probably thinking the same thing as me, baths are relaxing, right? Well for most babies they are, but for my baby she got so over stimulated she couldn’t fall asleep after. We moved her bath closer to when she woke up from her nap and she suddenly wasn’t so fussy in the evenings.
The whole point of my story is, maybe you are doing something so simple – like the relaxing bath – that is just too much for your baby at the time you are doing it. See if there is any sort of pattern or event that always occurs before your baby starts becoming fussy and try adjusting those.
Is your baby uncomfortable?
Is something bothering your baby that is preventing them from being able to fall asleep? Here are some common culprits to rule out:
Frequent latching and unlatching during breastfeeding or feeding baby with a bottle can lead to increased gas. There can also be sensitivities caused from dairy or the type of formula is on. If you have concerns please speak with your health care provider. But there are some things you can try to relieve it!
- Tummy Massage
- Bicycle Kicks
- Tummy Time
- Gas Drops
1. Is your baby too hot or too cold?
Check that the room temperature and the clothing your baby is dressed in is appropriate. A good rule of thumb is that your infant needs one extra layer of clothing than what you are wearing.
2. Is it too light for baby to sleep?
Try blackout curtains – seriously they make a huge difference.
3. Too Noisy for baby to sleep?
Try a sound machine to drown out some of the noise. We use the hatch baby rest and absolutely love it. Plus you can make changes to what is playing and lighting from your phone so you don’t even need to go into the nursery to do so. There is a hatch baby rest + version, but I don’t think its worth the money honestly. And no this is NOT a sponsored post, I just love the product, it changed how much sleep we all get! Check it out here for more info!
Comfort your baby
I am sure this one goes without saying, but cuddle that little on and hold them tight. Sometimes it is so hard to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. The whole experience is just as hard on your baby as it is on you. So give them all the cuddles in the world mama. This is a phase that will pass, but in the mean time, this will make both of your feel better.
Check out my post on Newborn Medicine Kit Essentials for other items that might help!
Maybe it isn’t Witching hour
Sometimes when babies suddenly become fussy out of nowhere it can be a sign that they are not feeling well. While witching hour is a totally normal phenomenon for young babies to experience, they cannot tell you what is wrong. Some common illnesses in newborns are ear infections and urinary tract infections. Please make sure to check with your physician if you have concerns.
You are an amazing mother to that sweet baby of yours. The fact that you have made it to my site to look for any possible solution you haven’t thought of yet shows that. You are doing great mama!
Have you discovered any tips or tricks to make it through the witching hour? I would love to hear all about them in the comments!