How to Survive the Fussy Baby’s Witching Hour
A baby’s “witching hour” is typically the time in the late afternoon and early evening when a baby is especially fussy. This can start when the baby is around 2 weeks old and wane by the time they are 3 months old. Some babies might cry for hours, requiring extra patience from parents to rock, hold, swing, walk, and bounce an irritable baby. Other babies don’t experience it much and sail through without too much trouble. Either way, the following tips may be helpful if you find yourself with a fussy baby on your hands.
What Causes a Baby’s Witching Hour?
There isn’t one answer to why babies often get especially fussy during these late afternoon and evening hours, but there are several factors that can contribute to it.
- Overtiredness: By late afternoon, babies who might have missed a nap or gotten an incomplete one will start to get overtired. When babies are overtired, cortisol and adrenaline are released into the bloodstream as part of a stress response. Unfortunately, these hormones actually promote wake-time, which makes it even more difficult to soothe a tired baby.
- Digestive Overload: Philippa Murphy, maternity nurse and author of the book BabyCues suggests that digestive overload can also contribute to the witching hour. By evening, a baby that has possibly fed too much might now by experiencing painful digestive issues. Many times, babies use the sucking reflex as a self-soother. However, if parents misinterpret this cue and overfeed their baby throughout the day, then there’s a chance that their tummies will really start to bother them by evening time.
- Gas buildup: Having gas is natural but when babies have too much trapped gas built up in their bodies, they are going to let you know through their fussing. The crying can actually make their pain worse since swallowing additional air into their bodies also contributes to gas. What you end up with is an uncomfortable and fussy baby.
- Busy home hours: For many families, the late afternoon and evening is when the level of activity increases in the home. Older children return from school, spouses come home from work, and the general atmosphere tends to change. For sensitive young babies, the overstimulation can be too much.
How Can You Best Tackle the Witching Hour?
- Overtiredness: Though it’s not always possible, especially with older kids in the home, try to prioritize a baby’s nap times. Babies up to 12 weeks old get overtired very easily so it’s important that they get a chance to take good naps throughout the day. It may be challenging to work around a newborn’s nap times but it won’t last forever and it could really help decrease their stress levels in the evenings. If they’ve already missed their nap, you can try your best to soothe a tired crying baby with swaddling and the use of the popular Shusher, touted as a sleep and soothing miracle. You can find this the Shusher along with a curated selection of swaddles in the Motherhood Center boutique.
- Digestive overload: Sometimes babies may be displaying a sucking reflex but may not actually be hungry. It may not be easy to tell the difference, but you can offer a pacifier or a clean finger for the baby to suck on just to confirm that they’re actually hungry. Oftentimes babies are looking for comfort because they are tired and will suck on a pacifier to self soothe. If you are choosing to use a pacifier, you can find a selection of them in the Motherhood Center boutique.
- Gas buildup: Trapped gas is a common issue in babies. Between eating and crying, there could be a lot of gas buildup in a baby! Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help your baby expel trapped gas. The “bicycle” exercise is one that might work. While the baby is lying down on their back, move their legs back and forth in a bicycle pedaling motion to help their bodies push out gas.
Parents can also look into the Fridababy line of products for gas relief. One of the most highly rated products is the “Fridababy Windi, the Gaspasser.” This is considered a must-have to successfully relieve baby’s gas. We carry this parent favorite and many other Fridababy products in the Motherhood Center boutique.
- Busy homes: Afternoons are a naturally busy time at home for most families. There is a lot of hustle and bustle when older kids come back from school, caretakers change shifts, and parents come home from work. Between the action, the noise, and the stress levels, a young baby can feel overwhelmed.
If your newborn is struggling in the evening hours, avoid placing them right in the middle of the action. Keep them in a quieter area of the home where the vibe is more relaxed. You can try using the Shusher to help calm a fussy baby.
A baby’s unexplained fussiness is not a fun part of parenting in the early days, but it won’t last forever. You can commiserate with other parents at the Motherhood Center, where we offer a Newborn Care Class that touches on the topic of the “witching hour”, calming techniques, bedtime routines and more.