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3 Hocus Pocus Tips to Overcome the "Witching Hour"

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.

Hocus Pocus 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.

Hocus Pocus 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.

Hocus Pocus 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 you can try include:

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!)

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.

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7 thoughts on “3 Hocus Pocus Tips to Overcome the "Witching Hour"

  1. Oh goodness, how much do I not miss the fussy evening stage… With my son it turned out to be largely caused by a build-up of gas from his feeds during the day. He is breastfed, but prone to being quite a fussy feeder because he’s ridiculously alert (those people who say breastfed babies don’t get wind are totally lying, by the way). Our health visitor explained that gas can be cumulative, causing little ones to be really uncomfortable in the evenings. We used Infacol or Gripe Water throughout the day as a preventative measure and this helped a lot. When that failed we did that thing where you hold their legs and gently push upwards in a circle to help relieve the trapped wind – I think in baby massage it’s called “the poo pump”(?), haha. Before that, we used to spend a lot of nights watching Star Wars with subtitles on. Anyway, I really hope that this might be helpful to someone else – I had no idea!
    Thanks for yet more great practical advice. Always love coming to your site.

  2. I’ve learned that with my son, most fussiness can mostly be prevented before the witching hour starts – make sure he gets the opportunity to nap and is awake no more than 2 hours after each nap. Overstimulation and being over tired seems to be key. It’s not a fix all but has made life a little easier in the evenings.

    Still, fussiness happens. The best thing so far has been to walk around while holding him up high so he can look around. Can’t wait for the evening fussy stage to be gone!

    1. Melanie, You’re 100% right, if they can get enough sleep during the day it helps A LOT!! With my daughter, I remember taking off all her clothes and diaper during the fussiest evenings and letting her lay on the floor. It was worth the potential mess 🙂

  3. Lunges, squats, shushing, skin to skin, and sometimes the mobile. It can be so hard!! I have a high needs reflux food allergy baby who is now 13 weeks and still wakes every 1-2 hours. What’s the worst for me is when nursing seems to hurt his tummy!

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