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May 4, 2021

The Witching Hour: What, Why and Tips for New Parents to Survive by Liesel Teen

Thank you to our guest author and Expert, Liesel Teen for this amazing article!


After you bring your newborn home, there is so much bliss and joy in your life. Seriously, there’s nothing better than baby snuggles, am I right? But along with that little bundle of joy comes a number of obstacles that make the newborn days TOUGH.

One common challenge SO many mamas face is a very fussy baby for a few hours every evening. Sound familiar? Mama, it’s a thing and you are NOT alone. This magical (sarcasm) time of the day is known as the witching hour.

And if you have a 0-3 month old, I’m guessing you are nodding your head, but maybe you didn’t know it was so common there’s even a name for it!

Before we get more into the witching hour, let me introduce myself. I’m Liesel Teen, L&D RN and the face behind the popular Instagram account and website – Mommy Labor Nurse! It’s my passion to provide support and education to expecting and new mamas, and I’m thrilled to be over here on Crane USA sharing some tips related to fussy newborns.

What is the witching hour?

The witching hour is a fussy period that almost all babies go through. It tends to happen around the same time every day and most frequently occurs in the late afternoon and evening hours (6 p.m.- 12 a.m.). It usually begins between weeks 2 and 3 and peaks around week 6, then declines around the 3-month mark.

During this time, baby might be a little fussier than normal and difficult to soothe. If you are nursing, baby might want to cluster feed or might not want to nurse at all. They may seem tired but don’t want to sleep!

And yup, I realize that may not be totally helpful, hah. It’s because one of the TOUGHEST things about the witching hour is that often it seems like baby doesn’t know what he or she wants! While this behavior can be challenging to manage for many parents, it is important to remember that it is normal, and it’s temporary.

The witching hour vs. colic

One thing to note – the witching hour is different than full blown colic. Colic is a term used to refer to babies that have regular, long, intense intervals of crying. Usually, it’s defined as crying for 3+ hours per day, more than three days per week for three or more weeks.

If you have a colic baby, I see you mama. It can be SO hard to have an inconsolable baby, and I feel for you.

Sometimes, colic is the result of a food allergy/intolerance or extreme and painful baby gas. But sometimes – like the witching hour - colic can be difficult to understand. The tips below can help with colic babies, too, but I do encourage you to talk to your baby’s pediatrician if you think this is what’s going on!

10 Tips to survive the witching hour

Alright, if you’re here, you’re probably looking for tips to get through this challenging and exhausting part of the day. Here’s a list I’ve compiled including things that have worked for me AND advice from other mamas in the Mommy Labor Nurse community.

  1. Try babywearing with a soft, wrap-style carrier: If the weather or your house temperature allows, you can do this skin to skin which can be super calming for baby.
  2. Add motion by walking, using a swing, rocking, or bouncing on a yoga ball: So many mamas say their babes love to be held while they gently bounce on a yoga ball or rock in a glider. Pop one in front of the TV, put on a podcast, or some of your favorite music to make it more tolerable
  3. Comfort feed if you’re a nursing mama: cluster feeding and the witching hour are sometime synonymous! Many breastfed babies basically want to nurse for literal hours straight during this time. And it’s totally fine! Actually it’s awesome for growing your supply to meet baby’s needs
  4. Try the 5 s’s - swaddle, shush, suck, hold on their side/stomach, and swing
  5. Change up the scenery, you can even go outside! Lots of mamas tell me they incorporate an outdoor evening walk into their days during the witching hour and it works like a charm. You can wear baby for the walk or put them in a stroller. Whichever seems to keep them happier.
  6. Use sensory deprivation by going into a dark room: Overstimulation is SERIOUSLY a thing with newborns. Sometimes simply going into a dark, calm room with a sound machine is like instant magic
  7. Burp baby or try to relieve gas: Gas is another common culprit during the witching hour, and the extra crying can cause baby to swallow more air and create a viscous cycle. Try lying baby on their back and bicycling their legs to release trapped gas
  8. Try a calming bath: So many mamas live by the old adage: just add water! Warm baths are soothing for so many little ones
  9. Switch off with your partner: Your partner can do all of these things too! And this is especially important if the witching hour is triggering you or you are at the end of your rope
  10. Make sure baby is safe and then step away if you need to: If baby is fed and dry, you can place them in a safe place (on their back, in their crib) and walk away for a few minutes to recollect yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup!

It’s temporary!

The most important thing to remember about the witching hour is that it is temporary. I can’t even put my finger on exactly when it happened for my boys, but suddenly you’ll realize you’re NOT dealing with nightly crying anymore.

You can get through this, mama, and with the tips on this list hopefully it won’t be quite so intense. Do you have another tip or piece of advice about the witching hour? I’d love to hear from you! Don’t be a stranger.

Bio:

Liesel Teen is a labor and delivery nurse (L&D RN), mom of two, the face behind the popular pregnancy Instagram page @mommy.labornurse, and creator of the online childbirth class, Birth It Up. Birth is something she’s been passionate about for as long as she can remember, and she loves sharing her nursing knowledge to help mamas-to-be learn more about pregnancy and birth.