The baby witching hour? Sounds spooky. In reality, it’s less supernatural, more super-challenging – but it can still be pretty scary if you don’t know what’s going on.
Here, we’ll talk you through all you need to know about the witching hour for babies. The bottom line? It will pass, mama – so hang on in there!
What is the witching hour for babies?
The witching hour for babies is the period of particular fussiness that most of our little ones go through. It often happens in the late afternoon or evening, usually around after five. And it usually happens on consecutive days.
You’ll probably notice if it happens. Baby will cry and cry – and cry and cry some more – for no discernible reason. And when you try to put them to bed, they’ll take a good long while to settle. The trouble with the witching hour is that your usually-fool-proof techniques for settling them down may not work. Lullabies, feeding, or rocking might not have any effect.
Your “witching hour baby” will probably first make an appearance at two to three weeks old and this may peak at around 6 weeks. But yes, have no fear, the witching hour will come to an end.
A note on colic. Colic, the strange baby period of significant crying, is specifically defined. If baby is crying for three or more hours a day, three or more hours a week, for three or more weeks, you’re probably dealing with colic. The witching hour won’t necessarily last this long.
What causes baby witching hour?
No-one is quite sure what causes baby witching hour. However, some people do have their theories:
Lower milk supply. Often, toward the end of the day, a mama’s milk supply isn’t as high as it is in the morning. That’s normal. But this might be a bit frustrating for the hungry little rascal.
Overtired. Before they’re 12 weeks old, babies can get overtired. When that happens, their hormones can go all over the shop and may be less easy to settle. That’s the witching hour.
Too much going on. Sometimes, a fussy baby at night can be the result of overstimulation. If there are lots of people over or if baby’s just had a far too exciting day, the witching hour might strike. This doesn’t explain why it recurs daily, but it could give you a clue as to how to soothe your little one: keeping things calm, if possible.
Growth. Two to three weeks old is prime time for a little baby growth spurt. This can be extra tiring – and, as we know, the way that baby responds to tiredness is through tears.
How do I stop my baby’s witching hour?
The thing about baby’s witching hour is that it is really difficult to stop. However, really difficult is not impossible, and, mama, there are always ways to get through it.
Cluster feed. One of the most popular top tips for getting through the witching hour, cluster feeding is when you let baby feed more regularly, even every half an hour. If it’s a growth spurt he or she is experiencing, this can help give them the calories they need.
A change of scene. Go outside, go for a walk around the block with baby in the stroller, or go to the park. A bit of movement and some fresh air can do baby – and you – a world of good.
Ask for help. If you’re stressed, baby can sense that. And so, if you need some extra help to look after baby for the evening, that’s okay. That’s what a support network is for. Note: The mamas on Peanut are here to help, day or night. Join the community to meet, chat, and learn from like-minded women.
Try to prevent overtiredness. It’s easier said than done, but making sure the sleepyhead gets the zzzs they need can help. Keep an eye on sleep cues, like yawning, eye rubbing, or fussiness, and put baby down for a nap. That can stop them getting witchy later on.
What age does the witching hour stop?
You’ve probably got one big question about witching hour baby: when does it end? The great news is that you don’t have to help your little one through the witching hour forever. By around 3 months old, the baby witching hour will probably have come to a stop – or at least be calming down.
If it doesn’t ease off around this time, and if you’re ever in doubt about more serious issues, you can always talk to your healthcare provider.