Everything You Need To Know About Your Baby's "Witching Hour"Aug 17, 2022
If you have a new baby in your home, you’re likely familiar with the term “witching hour.” While not all babies experience it, the witching hour is very common for babies 8-12 weeks old. So if this is a daily occurrence in your home, you are not alone!
The witching hour occurs when a normally content baby becomes extra fussy (maybe crying constantly), refuses to sleep or eat, and is very difficult to calm. This may sound similar to colic, but they are not the same. While colic symptoms last for about 3 hours a day , the witching hour typically only lasts for 1-2 hours per day, and can occur anytime between 5-10 pm.
Here are a few things that may be causing your baby’s witching hour, and how you can help alleviate some of their symptoms.
Common Causes of the Witching Hour
If your baby is suddenly becoming overly fussy in the evenings, some common causes to investigate further are:
- Low milk supply
- Growth spurts
When babies are around a busy environment with a lot of activity going on and loud noises, they can easily become overstimulated and trigger a sensory overload. This leads to lots of crying, and becoming more difficult to calm. While every baby may show signs of overstimulation differently, they will most likely cry loudly, and won’t want to be put down.
If your baby is showing signs that they may be in a state of over-tiredness, the most common factors for a newborn that may be contributing to the exhaustion are being overstimulated (too much and for too long), and being awake for too long (i.e. always up past their age-appropriate wake window).
>> CLICK HERE << to download my FREE wake window chart!
Exhaustion causes the release of increased adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. These hormones, in combination and over a long period of time, can cause your baby to stay overtired .
If your baby starts exhibiting the following signs, it’s a red flag that they are overtired and are ready for sleep:
- Difficult to calm
- Turning away
Low Milk Supply
If your baby is normally content during the day and is taking full feeds every 2-3 hours throughout the day, it is likely that a low milk supply is not the cause of your baby’s witching hour. However, prolactin (the hormone that produces milk)  is naturally lower in the evenings, so your baby may want to cluster feed during this time of day since they won’t be getting as full of feedings.
It’s normal for babies to become increasingly fussy during a growth spurt, making it a common cause of the witching hour. Growth spurts can result in your baby being more hungry than what is typically normal for them, and can even disrupt sleeping patterns (leading to over-tiredness). Thankfully, we know that growth spurts typically only last a few days at a time!
4 Ways You Can Help Alleviate Your Baby’s Witching Hour
Now that we know some of the most common causes of your baby’s witching hour, how can you prevent or at least get through it?
One of the easiest ways to prevent your baby from becoming overtired is to follow an eat-play-sleep schedule. I know that it can seem overwhelming to implement a “schedule” when adjusting to life with a newborn. But actually, eat-play-sleep should not be thought of as a “schedule”, but an “order of operations” for the day. Following this flow does not mean that you have to schedule your baby’s feeds or nap to an exact timing, but rather structure your day in that order of activities.
Paying attention to your baby’s needs and cues (both tired and hunger cues) will allow for this flow to happen, as well as better help you differentiate between these cues - making you able to meet your baby’s needs more effectively! Feed your baby when they wake, then after a short amount of time awake when they become fussy you’ll know they’re likely tired again rather than hungry. But please know that it’s always ok to feed your baby twice in a wake window if you feel they’re hungry again before going down for a nap. Follow that parent-gut!
Watching your baby’s wake windows is also a great place to start! When used in combination with an eat-play-sleep flow you’ll have an easier time avoiding a baby who is overly tired, and in turn, fighting sleep.
Check out this blog for more on following an eat-play-sleep schedule with your newborn, as well as what I recommend for newborn wake windows!
2. Lower stimulation
Babies can only handle so much! If your baby seems to be overstimulated, it’s best to reduce as much noise and activity as possible. Go into a room with dim lighting, relaxing sounds (or no sounds), and choose a quiet activity like looking at books.
3. Switch up the environment
Sometimes giving your baby a new environment is all they need to calm down a little more easily. Wear your baby, practice skin to skin, take a bath together, go for a walk, or even just step out of the house to get some fresh air.
4. Cluster feeding & Pumping
Cluster feeding can help make sure your baby is getting the amount they need to feel full IF low milk supply is the issue. If there is no issue of low milk supply, cluster feeding can still be beneficial to calming a fussy baby. However, if your baby is getting MORE frustrated when offering a feed during this time, it’s likely they’re not hungry and it’s best to attempt to soothe in other ways instead. And since prolactin tends to peak somewhere between 12am-5am, you can consider adding in an extra pump session somewhere in this time to try to boost milk supply.
When you’re in the thick of it, it can feel like the witching hours will last a lifetime. But remember that your baby will outgrow this phase and that you're not doing anything wrong if your baby is going through this!
If you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides for step-by-step advice and support with the most common sleep issues affecting your little one!
Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!
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