This article has been updated on
It was 6 PM, and my son started screaming on the dot. My happy baby smiled most of the day, but as the clock ticked closer to 6 PM, my heart started racing. I knew that his witching hours were getting closer.
From 6 to 10 PM, nothing I did calmed him down. When 10 PM arrived, he promptly stopped crying and went to sleep in my arms. It was like this for weeks.
I was sure that something was wrong with my sweet child. Why was 6-10 PM so hard for him? So, I spoke to my pediatrician and best friend, and they both confirmed the same thing – these were his witching hours.
But, what in the world are witching hours and how in the world was I supposed to survive four hours every day? Here’s what I learned.
What Are The Witching Hours?
If you’ve never heard of the witching hours, you might wonder what they are. The witching hours are typically described as a fussy period that most babies have. These hours happen at the same time every day, and they’re most common in the late afternoon and evening hours from 5 PM to 12 AM.
Babies typically start their witching hours between 2 to 3 weeks old, peaking around six weeks old. By three months old, the witching hours begin to decrease.
Throughout these hours, you will notice that your baby is fussier than usual, and it feels impossible to soothe him. He might want to cluster feed, or he might not want the breast at all. Babies seem tired during the witching hours, but they refuse to sleep.
You wonder if your baby has any idea what he wants. Truthfully, he probably doesn’t!
What Causes Witching Hours?
Babies can’t tell us what’s wrong with them – our lives would be so much easier if they could! By the time your baby reaches his witching hours, we know that there are some reasons for this behavior.
Drop in Prolactin Levels
Some people believe that the witching hours are due to the natural dip in a mother’s prolactin levels as the day progresses. By the end of the evening, your milk flow is slower, and your milk volume is usually lower. Ever notice how your breasts are full in the morning but not so in the evening? That’s normal.
The drop in prolactin might cause your baby to feel frustrated, and he might want to feed more often. Don’t be concerned; this is normal, and it doesn’t mean you have any issues with your milk supply. Continue to nurse through this time, and your milk supply will benefit from it.
Sometimes, the endless crying is due to colic. Colicky babies cry for hours, clenching their fists, turning red in the face, and arching their backs. Sometimes, colicky babies have intense crying spells that can last for a long time. To prevent this issue, we recommend you to use anti-colic bottles.
It can be hard to get your baby on the right sleeping schedule, and babies can quickly become overtired in the evenings. Fatigue a common reason for witching hours. If your baby often misses his naps, accumulated fatigue might make your baby cranky.
Another factor could be overstimulation, that causes your baby’s grumpy mood. Babies are unable to soothe themselves, so by the end of the day, your baby might feel cranky and disorganized.
By the time your baby is at this point, it’s hard to get your baby to calm down. The problem is, it’s often at the busy time for the family. In the evening, siblings come home from school or activities. Parents come back from work, and everyone is trying to multitask. It can make this time even more frustrating for all, including your baby.
7 Tips to Handle The Witching Hours
So, in general, you know that the witching hours aren’t something that you can prevent or stop. Babies have to outgrow this stage. So, since you can’t stop it, here are some tips to help you cope with the witching hours.
First, you want to offer the breast frequently. Cluster feeding is normal during the witching hours, and chances are you won’t be able to deter your baby from wanting to nurse. Nursing is comforting to your baby; they can relax, mentally, and physically.
Switch Off with Your Partner
Lean on your partner during this time. Handling a baby who won’t stop crying is frustrating, so it’s best to switch off to your partner if you need some help.
No matter who is going to hold the baby, chances are he is going to cry. So, take a break. Grab your third cup of coffee, take a shower, walk outside, or whatever you need to do to stay sane during this time.
Try babywearing! If you have to finish things during this time, babywearing helps soothe your baby during this time but frees up your hands to do other tasks. Babies love to be close to their parents.
Go Low Key
During this time, try dimming the lights, slowing down the hustle and bustle of the day, and try a low-key routine. Babies who are easily overstimulated need this low-key period. If you have older kids, try to reduce the yelling; go quiet!
Try Skin to Skin
Skin to skin is comforting for babies; that’s why experts recommend that parents do so with their baby as often as possible. It’s one of the best ways to help your baby calm down and regulate their system. It’s like a baby mental reboot.
Dad’s can do skin to skin with their babies as well; it’s not just for mothers!
Make a Plan
Head into the witching hours with a plan. The same soothing strategies might work, but it doesn’t always work. It’s best to try some new ways to soothe your baby, and making a plan helps.
A few things you can try to calm your baby include:
- Take infant for a walk
- Rocking chair
- Try baby massage
- Sing lullabies
- Bounce on an exercise ball
Take a Bath
One of the most calming things to try to soothe your baby is to take a bath. Bath time is excellent bonding time, and the warm water is soothing for your baby.
Bonus points, get in the bathtub with your baby; the skin to skin time can be relaxing as well. Play some soothing music and dim the lights to help your baby relax more. Make sure the water isn’t too hot or too cold.
While the witching hours are one of the most frustrating times to deal with, but it’s best to stay calm. Witching hours eventually come to an end when your child is three to five months old. Until then, you have to try your best to stay calm. It won’t be this way forever.