Inside: The witching hours are so difficult! Here’s why it happens and how to get past it without losing your marbles. Also, make sure you know your newborn baby needs. This will work great as you are doing what you can with sleep training.
I remember when my second child was just a few weeks old.
Things had been going well… it wasn’t my first rodeo… I thought I was completely prepared.
Then the witching hours started…
It actually took me a few weeks of off and on craziness before I even realized what they were. I was trying this and that and freaking out and imagining he’d cry for hours until he was 3 and let’s just say I was wiped out and desperate.
Then one evening I Googled exactly what was happening and – lo and behold – this evening fussiness had a name.
It’s name was The Witching Hour. Or… if it persisted for quite a while… The Witching Hours.
The Witching Hour Baby — How To Deal
So let’s dive right in since you are tired and likely holding a baby during the witching hours right now. Am I right?
This is a great time to break out your daily baby log and start getting a handle on what’s happening.
Oh but first… here are some signs your baby is having witching hours:
- A normally content baby seems to cry and cry for no discernible reason, usually in the early evening to late evening.
- A few nights a week, baby will find it hard to settle to bed and will cry for a few hours, usually in the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. time window.
- Nothing that will normally settle baby (feeding, rocking, in a swing, etc.) seems to have any affect.
- Baby will cluster feed but still not really settle down.
Is that your witching hour baby?
Step 1 – Evaluate Your Routine (it does affect witching hours)
One of the biggest potential reasons your baby has witching hours is over stimulation and over tiredness.
This means by the early evening to nighttime period baby is worn out and hyped up.
Has your baby had sufficient naps throughout the day? Here are some sample baby schedules that work and help reduce fussiness.
Make sure baby is not overtired because overtired babies have a very difficult time settling down. If they don’t nap well throughout the day then, by early evening, they are well and truly worn out.
This means the standard methods to settle just don’t seem to work.
- Morning naps are the most important of the day, get that one right.
- Figure out your baby’s awake window, meaning the time they are able to stay awake after they begin feeding until they become overtired (they start crying, whining or fussing). Then, always put then down to nap throughout the day within this window.
- Don’t keep them up just to make them sleep better at night. That is a LIE and does not work with basically all babies. Babies who are over tired do not go to sleep or stay asleep well. They just don’t.
Step 2 – Cluster Feed During The Witching Hours
Babies also get into witching hours because your milk supply is low. The wear and tear of the day and stress of having a newborn can catch up with a mama’s milk by late afternoon early evening.
This can mean baby is feeding for the same amount of time, but not actually getting the calorie rich hind milk.
So the answer?
Instead of feeling like you’re breaking your newborn routine, add some cluster feeds into the routine. Here’s what a cluster feed looks like with a little one.
3:30 pm – Feed baby
4:30 pm – Nap
5:30 pm – Feed baby
7:30 pm – Feed baby and put to bed
9:30 pm – Feed baby while still sleeping
11:30 pm – Feed baby (called a dream feed) then put back to bed
Of course, this is just an example. But if the reason for the witching hours is low milk supply, doing this type of routine for a few days will increase your supply and help baby to settle.
Within a few days you’ll know if hunger was the culprit.
- The Cluster Feeding Newborn: Do’s & Dont’s (& How To Not Do It All Night Long)
- How to Get Your Newborn To Sleep Well From Day One
Step 3 – Note Fussiness Patterns
Witching hours are mysterious.
Sometimes, the truth is, you try All The Things and nothing works. These are true witching hours. This means it’s something similar to colic (or baby reflux). It comes out of nowhere, makes you fear you’ll never survive the newborn period, then goes away just as quickly.
So observe baby and answer this…
Is baby mostly content all the time and well rested but then – in the evening hours – cries inconsolably?
If your answer is yes then you’ve got a case of the Witching Hours on your hands. Alternatively, if your baby is fussy a lot during the day and struggles sleeping at both naps, evening time, and throughout the night, then it’s probably not witching hours.
It’s probably something routine, sleep, or discomfort related.
Step 4 – Comfort Baby Through The Tough Witching Hours
So let’s recap…
- If baby is fussy all day and doesn’t sleep well… focus on baby’s routine.
- Next, if baby is pretty calm all day and rests well, but gets irritable and fussy in the late afternoon, early evening… first try cluster feeding.
- Or, if baby is pretty calm except during witching hours and cluster feeding doesn’t seem to help… you’ve got Witching Hours on your hands and you just gotta get through it.
You love baby. And, of course, it hurts to see baby upset.
It also hurts your nervous system to have an upset baby that won’t settle.
It feels lose lose.
But you can be there for baby, comfort baby, and practice honing in your parenting intuition skills as you progress through the witching hours.
Remember, they will NOT last forever and will probably be well and truly gone by the 3 month mark give or take.
- Get a wubbanub (shown below). If your baby will take it, that’ll help.
- Carry, wear, or sit with baby if you can. If you have other little ones and aren’t able, let your spouse have a go. He’s not doing you a favor watching the kids, after all.
- Use a swing. I do not recommend putting baby to sleep every nap with a swing as this is a big sleep prop, but during witching hours, anything that comforts baby goes.
- If this is your only baby or you don’t have any in school, use this as time for an evening stroll. Baby may calm down to the rhythm of the stroller or carrier and fresh air often helped my kids when they were feeling fussy.
To Wrap It Up… How To Help Your Tired Baby
I want you to take this to heart: you comforting, trying to soothe, and being there for your baby is just the thing that good mothers do. Right now and as they age, you won’t be able to always do the exact thing that makes them perfectly happy at all times.
Even if you always knew what that thing was – which you won’t – that isn’t an expectation you can set for yourself.
You do the things I’ve shared in this post and you’ll cut the number of witching hours down to a minimum. Also, you’ll set yourself up to have a baby who sleeps well.
You cannot underestimate the positive effects of a baby who sleeps well in a home.
Basic baby sleep tips for sleep deprived mamas…
- Follow the eat, play, sleep rhythm. This means you feed baby, let them stay awake a bit, then put them down. This helps them learn to sleep on their own which saves baby (and you) hours of tears and exhaustion.
- Set this morning habit and do it daily. It’s the easiest way to get babies to sleep later.
- Have a good baby bedtime routine.
- Make the nap and bedtime routines full of positive sleep associations, not sleep props.
- Don’t fall for the biggest baby sleep myth of all.
You can do this, mama!
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Witching Hours FAQ
The answer is yes. In fact, it’s usually in this newborn period up until about 3 months of age that babies have the witching hours. After that, it levels off.
It can cause fussiness and irritability, yes. However, if baby is fine some evenings and appears full and content, then a few evenings a week seems to be going through fussiness, then it’s likely NOT hunger, but the vaguely mysterious witching hours.
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and get the witching hour baby checklist it sent straight to your inbox. Print it out, check it off, and watch your baby pass through the witching hours as fast as can be!
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