After a beautiful peaceful day does your baby hit 4pm and suddenly decided to cry, fuss, grizzle and cry?
Well… They may well be suffering from the little known phenomenon of baby’s witching hour!
- But what is the witching hour?
- What causes this strange phenomenon?
- And how can we help baby avoid it?
And what does this all mean for YOU, the exhausted parent who just wants to put their baby down to sleep so that you can get some shut eye too!?
What Is Baby’s Witching Hour?
So what is baby’s witching hour and is it really a thing?
If your normally happy and content baby starts to get grizzly and difficult to settle in the late afternoon to early evening…
Then you’re experiencing baby’s witching hour!
When Does The Witching Hour Happen?
The witching hour can occur any time from 3 weeks of age, peaking at around 6 weeks and usually fading by 2-3 months of age.
But during this time, baby’s witching hour can happen any day between 5pm and 11pm.
It can last for a couple of hours or longer and can escalate from grizzling and fussing to full-blown screaming.
This is a long time to have to deal with a fussy and crying baby at the end of a long and tiring day, especially when you are hoping to have some peace and downtime to recharge those parenting batteries.
So what causes the witching hour and how can we try and avoid it?
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When Do Babies Grow Out Of The Witching Hour?
Most babies will have grown out of their witching hour phase by 4 months old.
And it will be a welcome relief for you both!
But if you’re little one is still struggling to settle at night beyond 4 months, you may need to visit a medical professional to rule out anything more serious.
6 Causes Of Baby’s Witching Hour
There are several things that can cause baby’s witching hour episode. Here are the top 6:
1. Over Tiredness
Overtired babies are prone to fussiness and an inability to settle.
If your baby has not had enough daytime sleep then, by the end of the day, they will be absolutely exhausted.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but an overtired baby will feel miserable and will require some persuasion to settle.
Baby witching hours are more often than not… triggered by baby being overtired.
Along with tiredness, overstimulation can also impact hugely on your baby’s ability to settle.
If your baby is suffering from overstimulation they will feel overwhelmed and their little brains will just not be able to cope so they will find it much harder to settle.
Breastfed babies are more likely to suffer from being hungry at the end of the day due to the fact that…
Breast milk has a tendency to slow down in production and volume at the end of the day.
This can cause your baby to be restless at night and trigger a witching hour episode.
So although your baby may be feeding for the usual time they may not be getting the same volume of milk from the late afternoon and early evening feeds as they were earlier in the day.
Young babies have immature digestive systems and they can be more prone to gas and stomach discomfort at the end of the day.
This does not necessarily have to be colic or reflux…
But rather just a bad case of wind.
Some say that colic and the witching hour are one and the same thing…
This is WRONG.
Colic is a completely separate condition that requires definitive treatment and needs to be diagnosed by a paediatrician.
Take a look at my post on How To Deal With Colic And Reflux to learn more if you suspect your little one may be suffering.
5. Growth Spurt
When your baby goes through a growth spurt they can become grumpier and fussier than usual due to the fact they are more tired.
6. Busy End Of Day Routine
Many households get busier at the end of the day with older siblings and partners coming home, which can result in…
You guessed it… OVERSTIMULATION.
You will also be busier at the end of the day by dealing with the needs of your family and, as a result, your baby will not be happy about not having your undivided attention at a time when they need it most (trigger a witching hour!)
Young babies ideally need to wind down and have a quiet end to their day in order for them to settle nicely.
12 Tips To Survive Baby’s Witching Hour
If your little one is suffering from the witching hour, there are some things you can try to ease the impact of this unsettling phenomenon.
Some may work, some may not…
BUT whatever happens, just go with the flow.
The good news is that as with many baby issues, baby’s witching hour is a passing phase.
1. Ensure Baby Has Adequate Daytime Naps
Take a look at your baby’s daily routine and see if they are getting enough daytime sleep.
Adequate naps are an important part of your new baby’s routine and trying to ensure your baby reaches the end of the day having had enough sleep, will go a long way to avoiding overtiredness.
2. Try Cluster Feeding
To ensure that your baby is getting enough to eat at the end of the day, try cluster feeding.
This can really help and make up for the fact that you might not be producing as much milk at the end of the day.
3. Try A Pacifier
Sometimes the good old fashioned pacifier can help soothe your baby during the witching hour.
In conjunction with cluster feeding, sucking on a pacifier can be very comforting for your baby at this time.
4. Have A Bath And Give Baby A Massage
Some young babies don’t like baths just yet, but many will find a warm bath calming and distracting (especially if it is followed by a baby massage!)
The essence of this tip is to get cosy and warm, touch and bond with each other and simply relax.
This will definitely decrease the likelihood of baby experiencing a witching hour.
5. Try To Have A Calm And Quiet End To The Day
Try and establish a peaceful and consistent evening routine for your baby.
Remove them to a quiet space such as a dimly lit room where you can feed them in peace, wind them and rock them before settling them to sleep.
6. Utilise White Noise
White noise machines are a great way to calm babies at the end of the day and avoid the witching hour as they cut down on distracting household noises and make it easier for them to settle.
For the first few weeks, your baby will have been able to sleep almost anywhere no matter how noisy…
But as they grow they become more aware and normal household noises may start to prevent them from settling.
A white noise machine is a perfect way to eliminate these distractions!
7. Wear Your Baby
Babywearing during the baby witching hour may also help.
This is especially useful if you have other children to look after at the end of the day and your baby can feel close to you.
This gives them that close contact with you and they may fall asleep there quite happily!
8. Practise Skin To Skin
Some babies find skin to skin contact very calming… so it is worth giving it a try to see if it helps.
9. Swaddle Baby
Swaddling is another great way to calm your baby if they are fretting.
Swaddling makes them feel safe and, coupled with you rocking them, a swaddle can often help them settle and reduce any possibility of a witching hour.
10. Swap Caregiver
At the end of a long day looking after your baby, it can be difficult to stay calm when your little one gets fussy and difficult to calm. So, try handing your baby over to your partner who will probably have a lot more patience and feel a lot calmer, to deal with the witching hour blues.
11. Have A Change Of Scenery
If you can, taking time outside can help calm your baby during baby’s witching hour.
Take them out and about into the fresh air or pop them in the pram and go for a walk.
12. Hang In There And Stay Calm
Finally, you might just have to hang in there and stay calm.
The witching hour is a difficult and trying time for you and your baby, but keep faith in the fact that it is just a passing phase and should be over by the time your baby is 2-3 months old.
Do You Need To Contact A Doctor?
I would say to follow the 3-3-3-rule.
If your baby is crying for 3 hours or more, 3 evenings a week, for more than 3 weeks and is accompanied by your baby drawing up their legs towards their tummy, arching their back and spitting up then you should consult a doctor to rule out colic or reflux.
What To Do Next?
Well, firstly, if you enjoyed this post and know other parents who would enjoy this content about baby’s witching hour, then be sure to give it a share!
Secondly, utilise the top 12 tips to help avoid the witching hour and stay calm…
Thirdly… Remember to be kind to yourself too.
So, try to squeeze extra ‘you-time’ into the day.
- Look into organising your shopping to be delivered to your home so you can savour a bit of time at home without worrying about buying supplies.
- When baby is having a nap, try to sleep yourself or have a cup of something warm (tea, coffee, hot chocolate) in the bath. Trust me, it will works wonders to relax you!
- Find a TV show or book that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere. Put on an episode or read a chapter when you need a little escape.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If baby is struggling to settle night after night and you’ve been looking after them all day, don’t feel bad for asking for help, support or a night off! You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Also, if you’re looking for any products for your little one and you’re not sure where to begin, be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox.
It is packed full of all my favourite products which I’ve tried to ensure are all non-toxic, eco friendly, sustainable and, of course, they’re all baby proof!
Thank you for your continued support! And until next time, Happy Parenting!
Paula McLarenPaul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.
Download this daily routine template to take back control and get out of perpetual survival mode!
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