Witching Hour: What It Is and How to Get Through It

Your sweet little bundle of joy is suddenly – well, not so sweet. Just as you think you’ve mastered reading your baby’s cues and meeting their needs, they enter a state of resettlement known as the witching hour. 

Of course, this ‘hour’ may or may not be limited to 60 minutes for your bub. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce the length and frequency of these challenging times. 

If you’re struggling to make it through your baby’s witching hour, you’ve come to the right place. From witching hour causes to calming your baby despite their irritated state, follow along for the tips and tricks you need to survive this trying time.

What Is Witching Hour?

First things first, let’s tackle what witching hour really is. 

Chances are, if you’re experiencing a witching hour with your little one, you already know it. However, if you’re unsure, this period of time is often characterized as an unexplained fussy period for your otherwise calm baby. 

Usually occurring around 5 pm-12 am, most babies don’t take to the usual methods for calming that usually put them right to sleep. They may be irritable, inconsolable, and are more than likely overtired. 

Most parents see witching hour start around the 2-week old mark. It then peaks around 6 weeks and usually resolves completely around the 3-month milestone. Of course, your timeline may be different from this and still be completely normal. 

So why do babies go through the witching hour? Let’s take a look at the common causes.

Witching Hour Causes

Don’t panic Mumma – these challenging pockets of time are far from your fault. Fortunately, although they may happen spontaneously, knowing the causes can help you prevent them from taking over your life. 

The common causes for witching hour include:

Increased Activity

When you think about it, this is the time in most households where activity picks up and overstimulation happens. 

Perhaps your partner has just come home from work, your kids are eating dinner and playing in the main areas before bed, or you’ve finally got some help to rush around and get the things done that have been on your to-do list. 

During this time, your bub is usually far more stimulated than they are when it’s just the two of you throughout the day. While it’s good for them to get used to the normal hustle and bustle of your home, this adjustment period may make for some challenging witching hour signs. 

Overtired Bub

Another common reason for witching hour is simply an overtired baby. 

Again, all that stimulation can keep babies from wanting to give in to their tired signals. Unfortunately, when they become overtired, their body releases ‘wake-up’ hormones called cortisol and adrenaline that make it even more difficult to settle down. 

If you miss the window of opportunity to get your tired baby to sleep, you may be left to deal with the hormone-induced fussiness that follows. 

Low Milk Supply

As the day progresses, your milk supply changes. When it gets to the evening, the hormones that help you produce milk drop off slightly and can leave you with a lowered milk supply before bed. 

If your baby doesn’t seem to be settled by a full belly, they could still be hungry due to your lower supply. This may be a good time to introduce an expressed bottle or even formula to help fill your little one up and keep them content. 

Growth Spurts

Finally, your baby may be growing through one of their many growth spurts. Especially in these first few weeks of life, babies grow often and fast! This can leave them needing extra feeds or even just a little more comfort. After all, growing is no easy task!

If your little one is going through a growth spurt, try to be as patient and understanding as possible. Although it can be frustrating to deal with, these windows won’t last forever, and you’ll soon cherish the days they wanted extra cuddles and comfort. 

Tips for Surviving Until the End of Witching Hour

Now that you know what causes witching hour, it’s time to tackle how to survive it. Of course, every baby is different. However, a combination of these tips and tricks may just be the recipe for success in your growing household. 

Cluster Feed

If your baby is growing or not getting enough milk due to low supply, cluster feeding can be a realistic solution. 

Cluster feeding is when your little one feeds in more frequent intervals. This can encourage a larger milk supply from mum, and act as a valuable bonding and comfort time for your bub. 

Although cluster feeding can be tiring for a new mum, offering these extra feeds and suckling time can shorten the duration of your witching hour journey and get the baby back on track to a restful snooze. 

Offer a Pacifier

If you’re not breastfeeding or you don’t want your baby to suckle at your breast for comfort, a pacifier can be a great option for some relief. 

If your baby is simply wanting some extra comfort, the sucking motion facilitated by a pacifier will help calm them the same way breastfeeding does. This natural motion can help them tap back into that sleepy state and drift off without feeling like they are alone or in need of mum. 

Check for Gas

Believe it or not, your baby could just be struggling with uncomfortable gas! If you’ve already burped your little one, consider using massage or leg pumping to work out any gas bubbles that could be stuck in their tummy. 

Gas can be pretty painful for your baby and may make it that much harder for them to settle down (even if they are full, dry, and comfortable). If nothing else seems to be working, give the old bicycle legs a try!

Establish a Sleep Schedule for Babies

While establishing a sleep schedule for babies this early in the game may sound unrealistic, it’s amazing what a bedtime routine can do for a fussy bub. 

Just like us, babies recognize routine and use the familiar signals to help calm their bodies and prepare for sleep. While it doesn’t have to be long or complicated, setting up a bedtime structure can help your little one recognize when it’s time to sleep and fall asleep faster. This could help you prevent those overtired hormones, and potentially skip over witching hour altogether!

Lower Your Own Stress

Babies are incredibly intuitive creatures. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that they get more fussy or uncomfortable when the people around them are stressed. Unfortunately, this includes you!

If you’re getting stressed by your baby’s broken sleep or fussiness, they can probably feel it. This can cause them to be even more unsettled. To combat this, try to take a few deep breaths or step away for a few minutes to calm yourself. And of course, don’t forget to prioritize your own self-care to avoid stress and burnout.

Get Outside

Fresh air is good for everyone! Not only will this help to lower those stressful feelings we mentioned earlier, but the sunlight can help your baby establish a more consistent sleep schedule too! 

If the witching hour seems to never end, do yourself a favour and head out into the sunshine for a refreshing change of scenery.

Offer Skin to Skin

Skin to skin is an incredible bonding technique that can calm your baby and make them feel safe and secure. 

If a regular cuddle isn’t cutting it, strip back the layers and get nice and cozy with your bub. You may even find climbing into a warm bath together before bed is a great way to bond, find comfort, and encourage sleepy eyes. 

Decrease External Stimulation

If your home is one of those households we mentioned earlier that seems to blow up after the 5pm mark, you may benefit from removing your baby from that hustle and bustle while they adjust. 

To do this, recreate the familiar feeling of your womb by playing white noise, swaddling them up tight, and keeping the room dark and cozy. 

Watch for Cues

Do you know your baby’s sleepy cues? If not, it’s time to get familiar with them. 

If you’re able to catch your bubs before they get overtired, your chances of having a peaceful evening will increase exponentially. Of course, the key to this is being able to recognize when your baby is getting sleepy. 

Turning away, rubbing eyes, and closing fists is a good indication it’s time to lay down (and fast).

Ask for Help

Sometimes you just can’t do it alone. If you’re getting frustrated, overtired, or just fed up, it may be time to trade-off with another caregiver. 

Whether you get help from your partner, mum, or friend, having another set of hands in the mix can reduce your stress and set you up for a better day tomorrow. 

While it may feel like you should do it all, just remember, there’s no shame in asking for help

Navigating Witching Hour

Now that you know the most common witching hour causes and tips for managing this challenging time, you can tackle your baby’s witching hour with confidence. Just remember, no matter where you are in your journey or how frustrating it may feel, you’re doing a great job!

Want more tips and tricks for calming your baby and encouraging development? Visit our village to discover all the parenting tips and advice you need for every obstacle. 

Please note: This article is designed to provide general advice for parents and guardians. For specific health advice, please consult with your child’s healthcare practitioner.

Tags: Parent's Corner