Issues Sleep

Baby Witching Hour: Common Causes & 10 Tips To Survive

The dreaded witching hour.

You are coming to the end of what was hopefully an enjoyable day with your newborn, and suddenly your baby enters a period of extreme fussiness.

For us parents this is a mentally and physically exhausting time, particularly as the witching hour tends to begin at the end of the day when you are already drained, and it’s sadly never over after just one hour despite it’s name.

Thankfully this challenging period is temporary, and there are usually some things you can do to make life easier for you and your baby alike.

What Is The Witching Hour For Babies?

The witching hour refers to a period of time when a newborn baby is notoriously fussy.

This intense period of fussiness or crying occurs in the afternoon or evening, typically anywhere between 5pm to 11pm.

How Long Does The Witching Hour Last?

It depends.

For some babies, this fussy period only lasts for a short amount (i.e. a matter of minutes), but for those less fortunate parents, this fussy period can last for up to three hours.

The good news?

The baby witching hour goes away almost as quickly as it begins, and by around 12 weeks your baby will hopefully outgrow this excessive crying that’s probably driving you slowly insane right now.

Related: Babies Who Fight Sleep Are Smart: Fact or Fiction?

When Does The Witching Hour Start?

As with most baby-related issues it’s hard to generalize, which explains why the witching hour typically takes place within a range of times.

This fussy period could start as early as 5pm, but for some babies it could just as easily begin much later in the evening, perhaps closer to your bedtime at 10pm or beyond.

If your baby tends to get fussy at the same time every evening, rather than the occasional night, then there’s a good chance the dreaded witching hour has begun.

Related: Why Newborns Are Fussy At Night (But NOT During The Day)

When Do Babies Outgrow The Witching Hour?

Most babies outgrow the excessive crying and daily fussiness that is the witching hour by around 3 months of age.

A lot of parents report that it typically peaks when your newborn is between 6-8 weeks of age, after which it should gradually shorten to 1-2 hours per day until your baby reaches 3 months.

At the 12 week mark most babies tend to outgrow the witching hour, although for some infants it can longer, perhaps until your baby is 6 months of age.

Do All Babies Have A Witching Hour?

Not necessarily.

Some babies might be fussy for a few minutes at the same time each night, some for up to 3 hours per evening, and others may bypass the witching hour completely.

What Causes The Witching Hour In Babies?

Experts cannot be sure on the exact cause of fussy periods in babies.

Keep in mind that crying (and the witching hour) is a perfectly normal part of an infant’s development, and the only way your child can signal that they are uncomfortable, tired, hungry or want to be picked up by mom or dad.

Here are some potential causes of the witching hour.

1. Overtiredness

Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive, but did you know that a well rested baby is less likely to resist sleep and will typically sleep better and for longer periods compared to a baby who is overtired?

If you can count on one type of behaviour from an overly tired baby then it will surely be fussiness.

Baby Yawning While Lying Down

See Also: How To Break The Cycle Of An Overtired Baby

2. Overstimulation

When trying to figure out what’s causing your baby’s witching hour, it’s useful to ask yourself if your child might be overstimulated.

Things like loud sounds, bright lights and the screen from a television, iPad or cell phones can be too much for your baby, especially as they haven’t yet learnt to settle down, calm themselves and self-soothe.

3. Hunger

With their small stomachs and ever-growing appetite, it doesn’t take much for a newborn baby to get hungry.

If you breastfeed your baby, then they may need to be fed as often as every 2 to 3 hours.

But it’s also normal for babies to “cluster feed“, which is when a baby suddenly starts eating much more frequently, leading to feedings that are bunched together in the evening.

So the fussiness that your newborn is exhibiting in the evenings during this witching phase could simply be because they are really hungry and want more milk more often than usual, and they want it now!

As a side note, formula fed babies can still experience the witching hour and want to be cluster fed.

It’s still fine to cluster feed formula milk, just be careful not to overfeed your baby.

4. Wind

As with most things to do with a newborn, their digestive system is still developing.

Unfortunately this can make it more challenging for your baby to digest the proteins, fats and carbohydrates in their breast milk or formula.

The result?

Wind, gas and excessive farting, all of which can be particularly uncomfortable for a newborn baby.

5. Growth Spurt

Starting from round 4 weeks, your baby will go through 8 unique leaps or growth spurts in their first year.

Three of these will occur before they reach the 12 week mark, and each leap represents a specific change accompanied by the learning of new skills.

During a developmental leap or growth spurt your baby will experience sensory changes that affect their sense of taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch.

As you can imagine, this is somewhat upsetting or stressful for a newborn, hence the extra fussiness.

Growth spurts can make a baby even hungrier than usual – just think of all those calories they are burning while growing and learning new skills!

6. Food Sensitivity

If you are breastfeeding and thing your baby’s fussiness might be down to stomach issues, you may want to look at your diet.

In this case it’s a good idea to check with your pediatrician to see if eliminating milk, caffeine or spicy food from your diet could help.

If you are formula feeding your baby, you can ask your pediatrician if changing your baby’s formula could make a difference.

Related: Can You Return Formula To Walmart, Costco, Target Or Amazon?

Baby Witching Hour Tips

Woman Holding Crying Newborn Baby

1. Rule Out Basic Needs First

Think of these as a simple checklist you can run through in your head: Is your baby hungry? Could their diaper need changing? Do they feel too warm or too cold? Has their pacifier dropped out?

2. Check If They Are In Physical Pain

If you suspect they have trapped wind, maybe you need to rub their belly or pat their back.

If they have a cold, could a humidifier help?

Of course, if you believe your baby is in a lot of pain or anything could be seriously wrong you should call your doctor so they can take a look or advise on the appropriate care.

3. Feed More Often

If you are breastfeeding your baby to sleep, you may want to nurse them more often.

Not only because they might be hungrier at the moment, but also because this can help you little one feel safer and more comfortable.

4. Use A Pacifier

Let your baby sleep with a pacifier.

according to the AAP, pacifiers are safe for newborns, as long as you follow some basic safety rules which include only using a 1-piece version, using the correct one for your child’s age, and only using a pacifier clip under supervision.

5. Introduce White Noise

Play white noise, which many babies find soothing.

White noise machines are designed to replace silence – which can be unnerving to a baby – with a gentle, consistent and soothing noise (such as running water, music or a heartbeat).

6. Skin To Skin

Give them some skin to skin or let them settle on your chest.

If you do this then keep in mind that for safety reasons it’s vital to make sure you’re awake at all times.

7. Wear Your Baby

Wear your baby using an appropriate baby carrier, wihch works because 1. Your baby likes being close to you, and 2. Babies typically find movement soothing.

8. Swaddle Your Newborn

Try swaddling, which involves wrapping a baby in a blanket so that their limbs are secure and can’t wriggle out).

According to many pediatricians, swaddling can help a baby feel calm and can promote better sleep because it helps replicate the feeling of being in mom’s womb and because it can help keep the moro (startle) reflex from kicking in.

9. Embrace Darkness

Contrary to popular belief, babies and infants are not afraid of the dark, because they are too young to have an imagination. So darken their room as much as you can to encourage a good night’s sleep.

10. Be Kind To Yourself

Lastly, remember not to neglect your needs.

Self care is vital for moms and dads in order to be the best possible parents, so don’t be afraid to share the load with eachother or enlist some “outside” help from close friends or family during this difficult period.

Must Read: The Ultimate Guide To Baby & Toddler Sleep

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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