If you’ve had a baby for…I don’t know…more than about 3 hours, you have very likely experienced the ‘witching hour’.
If you’ve managed to escape this joy, here’s a brief description: It’s the period between about 5pm and midnight where you begin to question why FOR THE LOVE OF GOD your baby won’t stop fussing and just go to sleep already.
There is likely much wailing and gnashing of teeth (gums), and while you’ve tried everything you can think of to calm him, nothing seems to work for more than a minute or two.
The good news is that fussy evenings don’t last forever.
The bad news is that they may last for a while. And that’s why it’s so important to figure out ways to cope with your fussy, discontent and likely overtired baby – before you lose your mind.
After having had two fussy babies (one of whom was high need), and after having talked with hundreds (thousands?) of parents of fussy babies, I’ve learned a few tricks to cope with evening fussiness.
Here are my top 3 tips.
Witching Hour Baby Tip #1:
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
It’s common, particularly during the newborn stage, for babies to become fussy and even inconsolable after around 5pm. We still don’t have a solid understanding of why this is, however two of the more likely culprits may be overstimulation from the activities of the day, or the need – but also the inability – to fall asleep (or stay asleep).
Whatever the reason, getting through those hours at night can be rough.
One of the best ways I’ve found for getting through the evenings is to plan for the worst. Assume that your baby will fuss, scream or cry until 2am, and plan for it.
If you can hear a movie above the wailing, plan to have it on in the background (subtitles are your friend!). If your baby does better out in public, plan to be out most evenings. If the weather’s nice, plan to grab a coffee, strap your baby in carrier, and take a nice long walk.
Witching Hour Baby Tip #2
Comfort feed. Really, it’s ok.
I know many parents hesitate to ‘comfort feed’ their little one for fear that they’ll start a bad habit or overfeed their baby.
But in my opinion, comfort feeding is extremely natural, and if it works, do it! If you’re breastfeeding and are sure your little one isn’t actually hungry, continue to offer the same breast. You obviously need to be a bit more careful with formula, but if you’re concerned, try offering a pacifier or even your pinky.
Witching Hour Baby Tip #3
Have a plan.
When you’re in the midst of a crying jag, it can be hard to think straight. You’ll likely resort to the same old soothing strategies you always use, and sometimes, this can be enough.
But other times, everything you try fails. This is why it’s important to plan ahead and be armed with a list of soothing strategies.
Some of the most effective calming strategies when your baby is fussy in the evening include:
- Swaddling and bouncing on an exercise ball
- Putting baby in a baby swing (on the fastest setting!)
- Putting on (loud) white noise
- Giving a warm bath
Here’s a list of 40 effective soothing strategies you can try with your fussy baby. Or, you can sign up for Heather’s Soothing Webinar and listen to every soothing technique under the sun! (The more you have, the more likely you’ll find one that works!)
The Most Common Reason for
Witching Hour Babies
Heather, as a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach, has seen a lot of witching hour babies. Almost all of them had one thing in common: They were bad nappers.
This means their little baby brains were overtired and they just. couldn’t. handle. it!
Helping your child avoid getting to that stage is crucial in helping this season pass as quickly as possible. If your baby is younger than 22 weeks, sign up for a one-on-one Newborn Session and get professional help on creating good sleep shaping strategies.
If your baby is over 22 weeks, sign up for Heather’s online “Napping Know-How” class to learn how to improve your child’s daytime sleep, making those witching hour screaming fits disappear forever.
Above all, keep in mind that this won’t last forever.
When you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to imagine enjoying carefree, quiet evenings ever again, but believe me when I tell you: It WILL happen.
Those silent nights will return. Persevere and keep cuddling!
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