Your baby’s wails make you feel helpless. They are painful because you do not know why the little one is crying, especially if you are a new mom. The baby seems utterly inconsolable, and to your dismay, this happens daily! But did you hear about ‘witching hour’? That daily dose of your baby’s cries is what exactly it is. If it lasts for less than an hour, you should be eternally grateful to the baby because it usually continues for hours together.
First things first! Witching hour is a perfectly normal phenomenon. If you want to know why witching hour happens and how you can survive it, read this post at MomJunction. Fret not! Read on and get the solution to your mommy woes.
What Is Witching Hour?
Witching hour, also called as arsenic hour, is the late afternoon or evening when babies start wailing all of a sudden (1). The wailing can last for 30 minutes to an hour while some can cry nonstop for hours. Nothing seems to calm the little one during the witching hour. No amount of feedings, pacifiers or lullabies seems to work. It may just be hours of crying that will not end until the sun goes down. However, not all babies experience a witching hour.
It usually hits babies around two to three weeks after the birth and peaks by eight weeks. It would begin to reduce in around three to four months. Experts say that most babies get over this inconsolable crying by the time they turn five months. But for some it can continue for a longer time.
According to an occult belief, the witching hour is from 3am to 4am when demons, witches, and ghosts are at their best and black magic is most effective. However, there is no proof or evidence to support this.
Causes for Baby Witching Hour
There is no exact known reason for the witching hour. Let us look at some obvious reasons for your little one’s crankiness.
If your baby cries endlessly for hours, there are chances he may be suffering from colic. One in five babies suffers from colic. So this could be a strong reason for your baby to cry for extended periods in the evening. Babies suffering from colic make intense calls, and clench their fists, arch their backs or turn red in the face while crying. Unfortunately, there are no causes of colic. See a doctor if the cries are intense and continue for a long time.
Fatigue is a primary reason for your little one’s nighttime fussiness. Bad sleeping patterns usually trigger fatigue. If your baby misses sleep often, the accumulated fatigue can make him cranky, leading to the witching hour-wails.
In most homes, daytime activities are stimulating for your baby due to lights, noises, and loads of activities. By the end of the day, he may feel exhausted and turn fussy. Also, the silence at night can annoy him.
4. Tummy Trouble
Sometimes, gastrointestinal and stomach problems like flatulence, constipation or gas may cause excessive wailing in your little one. If you are nursing, check if something you eat has troubled the baby’s tummy. Spicy foods, carbonated drinks, and caffeine are the most common culprits. Consider quitting them for a while.
Babies tend to ‘cluster feed’ in the evening. Cluster feeding means that they feed far more frequently than they do during the rest of the day. Sometimes, babies feed once every hour. They do this to sleep for longer stretches at night. Babies who cluster feed have their longest stretch of sleep once they finish their cluster feeds. Their evening cries could be for initiating cluster feeds.
Life outside the uterus is still new for infants. So, they may be oversensitive to sensations, noises, and activities. As they are still trying to adjust to the new world, they get overwhelmed.
7. Lack of Attention
Late afternoon or early evening is a busy time for everyone. The older kids come home from school; Mr. Hubby comes home from work, and you have to get the food ready on the table. All these chores make it difficult to pay attention to your baby. The lack of attention could be one of the reasons of your little one’s evening fussiness. After all, kids feel lonely too!
Tips To Deal With Witching Hour
Your infant’s continuous wails drain you out physically and mentally. Follow a few simple tips to cope with the arsenic hour.
1. Be prepared
Be prepared and accept that witching hour is unavoidable at least for a few weeks after your baby is born. Remember that it will not last forever. Do not get panicky and tell yourself that you will pass through this phase very soon. A few weeks from now, those early evening-wailing sessions will be a thing of the past.
2. Make yourself comfortable
If you are comfortable, you can make your baby feel comfortable. Take a few minutes to shower and change. It will help you gather yourself before dealing with the task ahead. Get out of your office clothes and slip into something more comfortable. It will make it easier for you to snuggle with your baby.
The same old soothing strategies to calm the crying baby may sometimes work, but not always. It is important that you have a list of ways to pacify your baby. Consider using these calming strategies:
- Set your baby down in a rocking chair
- Bounce your baby on an exercise ball
- Singing him a lullaby
4. Stay calm
One of the best ways to survive the witching hour is by staying calm. Your inability to soothe your baby does not make you a bad parent. Any stress and anxiety you feel will only make him wail louder.
5. Engage the little one
Keep your baby occupied, yet make him feel that your focus is still on him. For older babies, play a hunting or guessing game and let him search for the hidden toy. Set up a picture book or toys exclusive for the hour.
6. Get some peace
Just like you find it hard to switch off after a stressful day at work, your baby may struggle to disengage after seeing any exciting thing for the first time. So, it is vital that you and your baby relax during the witching hour. Your darling will find it easier to calm down in a soothing environment. Switch off all the electronic gadgets (including mobiles) and lights. Spend some quality time relaxing alone with the baby.
7. Have a bath together
Bath time is a great bonding time! Fix a tub of warm water and get in along with your baby. Play some soothing music and dim the lights to relax your little one. Water should not be too hot or too cold.
8. Carry your baby
Another excellent way to soothe your wailing baby is by carrying him around in a sling or wrap. Once your baby is wrapped tightly around your chest, he will find it easier to relax. Take your baby for a stroll in the garden or just move around enough for him to become comfortable in the sling. You can also place him in a swing.
9. Get fresh air
Your baby may feel better outdoors to get a break from the stimulated home environment. The birds and early evening sky can be a welcome break! Take your darling to a nearby garden in a sling or stroller. The fresh air and gentle motion can calm down the baby. It will also help you get free from the day’s stress.
A lovely warm cuddle can be the best thing to do if everything else fails. Cuddling will comfort and calm the baby besides making him feel safe and secure. Rock and pat your baby gently while cuddling him.
11. Comfort feed your baby
Comfort feeds are quite natural and if it helps your little one calm down during the witching hour, just go ahead. It does not mean over-feeding. If you are confident that your baby is not hungry, continue with the same breast. If it does not work, move on to the other one. Remember, breastfed babies can not be overfed.
But if your little one is formula feeding, you should be careful. If he just had a bottle of formula milk, do not offer him more. Try a pacifier instead. Check for possible milk-protein intolerance or other problems that could have triggered the wails.
Sometimes, trapped gas in your baby’s stomach may lead to discomfort and make him cry. If you suspect gas to be the culprit, give your baby a few gas drops. Remember to wind your baby after every feed so that he burps.
13. Use white noise
Did you know that some women use blenders, vacuum cleaner and hair dryers to calm their bewitched baby? According to child experts, some babies get comforted by white noise. It is because the sound replicates life in the womb. You can download white noise applications to soothe your fussy baby. Or you can also put the baby in a bouncy seat in the bathroom while you shower. The white noise of the shower will calm the baby. You can also turn on the bathroom fan for added effect.
14. Play music
Playing music serves a dual purpose. It creates a soothing atmosphere and helps drown out your baby’s constant wailing. It does not matter what kind of music you are playing. Whether it is jazz or good old rock-n-roll, if it helps you and your baby calm down, go for it. Watch out for the baby’s cues. If your little darling continues to cry, check if the music is too loud for him.
15. Offer something to munch
If your baby has begun taking solids, give him water, apple or cucumber or carrot slices before dinner. Do not expect them to clean the plate. Let them snack something healthy. Snack can cut down the crankiness to an extent.
16. Observe for early hunger and sleep cues
More often, a crying baby meant physically escalated and crossed the point of need for food or sleep. It takes long to settle such a baby. To avoid it, identify early hunger and sleep cues. Offer feed if he shows some hunger cues and put him to a nap if he shows sleep cues like yawning, rubbing eyes, and jerky head movements.
17. Prevent over-tiredness
Ensure that your darling gets to sleep a lot during the day to avoid over-tiredness. Let him take naps every two hours. Baby’s daytime sleep would not interfere with the night sleep. In fact, it is the other way round. An overtired baby has a tough time to fall asleep during nights.
18. Shift duties
Have a backup plan. Seek your partner’s help in soothing the baby. Keep shifting duties, so that you can recharge before getting back to the task at hand. One of you can try to calm the baby, while the other can rest for a while.
19. Keep yourself available
Give the little one what he wants. Wondering what? It is you. Be there for your child. Witching hour is the time when the baby needs nothing more than you. The more relaxed and available you are for your baby, the better for you both. Focus on the baby not the pending chores of the house. Put the baby’s feelings into words and let him know that you understand.
If you are a working mother, it is advisable to spend at least ten minutes with your baby snuggling on the couch before you get on with the chores at home. Remember, your little bundle of joy is hungry for your attention!
Yes, ‘witching hour’ is a testing time. You may feel helpless, and at times get on the edge. Remember that your child melts into blissful calmness once you give what he wants. Do what it takes to keep your baby happy during this time.
Hope our post was helpful. How do you calm your baby during the witching hour? Share your tips and views with other moms here.
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