We’ve all been there. Your newborn has been perfectly happy and content all day, but late afternoon hits and BOOM - it’s like something has taken over your little one. Your once happy and easy-to-soothe baby is gone and is replaced by a newborn who is unable to be soothed no matter what you do. It leaves you questioning, “What is happening and where did I go wrong?”
Witching hour is a common phrase used to refer to the period of time when an otherwise happy and content baby turns into a fussy one. This phase starts showing up around two to three weeks of age, peaks at about six weeks, and starts to go away by three to four months. It typically takes place in the late afternoon and evening hours (think 5:00 to 11:00 pm), and parents will notice that their usual methods of calming and soothing simply don’t work during this time.
Is it colic or witching hour?
Witching hour is often thought to be colic, which is also a term used to refer to a baby who is typically content but then becomes fussy. However, colic is defined as, “periods of crying in an otherwise healthy baby for more than three hours at a time, more than three days a week, for three weeks in a row”. If your newborn is not experiencing the three’s then their fussiness is likely due to witching hour.
How to survive and thrive through the witching hour
Watch those wake windows: Remember, your newborn’s wake windows are super short at this age (less than 45 minutes). Having longer periods of awake time and not enough daily sleep can cause your little one to become overtired. A baby who is overtired will have a difficult time falling asleep, staying asleep, and tends to fight sleep more than a well-rested baby. An overtired baby is the perfect storm for experiencing an intense witching hour.
Refocus: No matter the age of your child, they are highly in-tune to positive and negative interactions, meaning they sense when you are stressed. Let’s face it, it is hard to not let a crying baby get to you, especially when you are still dealing with postpartum hormones. When things get to be too much, step back and refocus. Take some deep, calming breaths and focus on your breathing. Keeping your cool and remaining calm will help you little one to do the same.
Try the S’s: Swaddling, sucking, shushing and swinging have all shown to help soothe a crying baby. Swaddle baby tightly and shush them. Try the motion of the swing (but remember, no swaddling while in the swing). You can also try feeding or offering a pacifier.
Take turns: Have your significant other take baby if you are feeling overwhelmed. Or, have a parent or friend on standby who you can call to come help you through this period. And remember that feeling overwhelmed by this tiny human is a totally normal! It is OKAY to feel overwhelmed and ask for help. People want to help you!
Have a designated calming space: Just like becoming overtired can cause the witching hour, so can overstimulation. Similar to the transition you are experiencing to life with a newborn, your little baby is going through a similar transition of their own. For the past nine months your little one has been in your womb and is now suddenly out in the great unknown. Just imagine how different this new environment is for your tiny babe. Establish a space where you can dim the lights and block out noise. Turning on some white noise is a great idea, but no phones or tv in this space!
The good news is witching hour is just a phase, and though it may seem like it will last forever while you are going through it, it does come to an end.
If you are struggling with your newborn’s sleep and feel like you need more help, my newborn guide and course are great resources to set yourself up to build a healthy foundation of sleep!