Tips to Survive the Witching Hour
Why is my baby crying at 5pm EVERY NIGHT? If your baby seems unsettled at night, you could be going through the witching hour.
I’ve been there, and those few hours of your newborn baby’s evening fussiness can be awful. You’re exhausted, trying to make supper, and your newborn won’t stop crying.
Don’t worry, I promise, it will end! But it might not happen as quickly as you hope.
Thankfully, there are a few tricks to surviving the witching hour that’ll make this difficult time a little easier on everyone.
What is the Witching Hour?
First, let’s define what the witching hour is.
The witching hour (or hours) is when your baby (who is normally happy and healthy) is extra fussy for a few hours in the evening. I’m talking the type of fussiness that isn’t consoled easily by eating, sleeping, or changing a diaper.
The witching hour typically happens between 5pm and midnight and occurs most nights a week (sometimes every night).
While we often talk about wishing we had “easy babies”, we definitely had our share of witching hours.
Like clockwork – every night our little girl would cry from 6pm to 9pm – and it was exhausting. And stressful, and sad. I remember walking around bouncing her for what felt like an evening of fussiness that would never end. And finally she’d cave and fall asleep around 9:30pm.
I felt so sad that we couldn’t figure out how to help our little one. Finally realizing it was “just” the witching hour, helped me feel a little better.
So if you’re going through this right now, you’re not alone momma! And while it’s so hard to hear them cry, it will get better.
Why does the Witching Hour Happen?
As I mentioned above the witching hour is normal. But that still doesn’t explain why it happens.
While there isn’t really a cut and dry reason for why the witching hour happens, experts believe it could be:
Witching Hour vs. Colic
While the witching hour and colic sound very similar, they aren’t one in the same. It’s important to remember that to be considered colicky or being in the witching hour – aside from crying your baby is otherwise healthy and thriving.
According to KidsHealth,
Colicky babies are usually between 3-12 weeks old, and cry for more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks.
According to the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, the difference between a baby who has colic and one experiencing the witching hour is that a colicky baby is often unable to be soothed and the crying is more intense.
Other differences that colicky babies may experience include:
- arching his/her back
- acting like he/she wants to change positions
- tensing his/her legs up near the abdomen
How Long Will the Witching Hour Last?
I have good news for you! When our baby turned 3 months old, it was like the witching hour was magically over.
It was…incredible! It was like we had a new baby. Well rested, smiley, happy, and no more witching hour.
While I can’t promise 3 months will be the magic day for your baby, most babies outgrow the witching hour between 3-4 months old.
Best Baby Witching Hour Tips
So what can new parents do about the longest 3 hours of your day while baby can’t be settled? These baby witching hour tips should give you a great place to start.
Hopefully they can ease some of the stress and exhaustion you and your baby are feeling during the witching hours of the day!
1. Eliminate Gas
Young babies have underdeveloped gastrointestinal systems. So in simple terms: their tummies just don’t work as well as they should…yet.
Unfortunately, this can lead to built up gas. Either in burps or farts. While most parents have heard that they need to burp their baby, there’s so much more to know!
Thankfully there’s a few tips you can try to eliminate and reduce gassiness in your newborn:
- Windii – Frida Baby’s Windii is hands down one of my favorite new products. It’s been a lifesaver and really helped our baby pass gas easily. We also love the ease of having them at home in our diaper drawer.
- Gas Drops – gas drops seem to be hit and miss for helping babies pass gas. Some parents swear by them, other’s think it’s a coincidence, while some claim they don’t work. They seemed to work for our first baby, but it could have been a coincidence.
- Gripe Water – an alternative to gas drops, some parents swear gripe water is the cure to the witching hour
- Tummy Massage – one of the best tips and tricks we learned from our Pediatrician and Chiropractor was to massage our baby’s tummy in a clockwise motion (starting on the bottom right of baby’s tummy and ending on the bottom left)
- Bicycle kicks is another great way to help baby move gas out of his or her body
- Chiropractor – taking our baby to see the Chiropractor was really a huge lifesaver for us with our second baby. After her first appointment she let out a ton of gas and fell right to sleep. It was amazing!
2. Breastfeed On Demand! (Cluster Feeding Time)
Sometimes all a newborn baby needs to get over fussiness in the evening is cluster feeding. As a new mom who’s just getting used to breastfeeding, this can seem like an exhausting task at the end of the day.
However, breastfeeding your baby on demand can make a huge difference and really help reduce nighttime crying.
Trust me, I get it. There were times all I thought was, “nooo, my baby can’t possible be hungry again”. Here’s a few quick tips to survive cluster feedings:
- Get comfortable: find a comfy chair or spot on the coach and put those leggings or sweats on
- Relax: try not to worry about supper, cleaning, or anything else, just focus on cuddling with your baby
- Get back up: ask your spouse to help you out with other tasks around the house as you cluster feed
3. Avoid Overtiredness
An overtired baby only makes the witching hour worse. It’s easy to think that the more tired your baby is, the better she’ll sleep later.
Oh, how I wish that was true.
Unfortunately, if you push your baby’s naps off until later chances are good she’ll just become overtired and not be able to calm down and fall asleep. This makes her even more tired and more upset during the witching hour.
If you can try to keep your baby on a schedule and make sure she sleeps every 1-2 hours (especially during those first few weeks and months).
Trust me, if you can figure out your baby’s sleep routine and schedule (and stick to it!) you’ll save yourself a major headache – and lots of tears!
4. Utilize the “5 S’s”
Have you heard of the 5 S’s yet? If not, you’re going to eat, sleep, breathe, and dream the 5 S’s.
The idea was invented by Dr. Harvey Karp who believed that (developmentally) babies are born 3 months too early. Parents can help comfort them by performing the 5 S’s to help replicate still being in their mother’s womb.
Okay, so here’s the 5 S’s you need to try if you have a fussy baby (especially in the evenings):
- Swaddle: wrap your baby tightly (check out the video below or this article from the Mayo Clinic for tips on how to swaddle)
- As a nurse who used to work in labor & delivery, this has hands down been my favorite swaddle blanket ever.
- Side-Stomach Position: hold your baby over your arm on her stomach, up on your shoulder, or on her side. While baby needs to sleep on her back to be safe, when holding and trying to calm your baby – the back doesn’t actually help! Try these other positions to calm her
- Shush: “shhhhh, shhhhhhhhh”. Create noises like this with your mouth or a white noise machine to help your baby. Skip the ocean or nature sounds, experts say they don’t work as well! Don’t be afraid to shush nice and loud either, your baby is used to loud sounds in the womb!
- Swing: give your baby some movement! Swing your baby in your arms to help replicate the constant movement she was used to in the womb while her mother walked around.
- Keep in mind you should never shake your baby – if you need a break just put her down in her crib where you know she is safe and walk away.
- Suck: babies have the innate desire to suck. Whether it’s breastfeeding (likely cluster feeding) or using a pacifier – offering your baby something to suck on can be a great trick.
Here’s the best way to swaddle a newborn baby:
5. Wear Your Baby
Wearing your baby is another great tip to help with the witching hour. Your baby loves to be close to you and by wearing him, you’ll give yourself a chance to be hand free.
Related: The Best Inexpensive Baby Carrier
6. Go for a Walk/Get Outside
Giving your baby a change of scenery might be just what he needs to get through the witching hours. Whether it’s the slight breeze, the fresh air, or the nature noises – many babies tend to calm down when they get outside.
With my son, swinging on our front porch swing did the trick. It was hands down the best thing we could do to combat his fussiness.
7. Use White Noise
Just as talked about above, white noise helps mimic the sounds your baby hears in the womb.
Here’s some easy ways to use white noise:
- Use this white noise machine – it’s hands down, my favorite one. It’s so portable and inexpensive, that I bought two when I got mine!
- Buying tip: Sometimes Amazon puts it on sale, so if you see it on sale, get it!
- If you have an Alexa device, we like this little discrete one, ask her to play white noise.
- Use a free YouTube video like the one below (this one is 12 HOURS – no having to hit replay ;)). I only use this option if I’m in a pinch – I hate draining the battery on my phone (because you may need to play white noise for a LONG time.)
8. Try Skin to Skin
Utilizing skin to skin to help calm your fussy baby in the evening is always something good to try.
Skin to skin can help soothe and calm a fussy baby, she’ll feel close to you and you’ll get to soak up some extra cuddles.
9. Try a Warm Bath
Sometimes a nice warm bath can help calm babies during the witching hour and get them ready for a good rest.
This one will definitely depend on your baby’s opinion of baths though.
My first baby would have loved a bath to help him calm down, but my second baby hated baths for the first month or two.
10. Take Turns (& Take Breaks!)
I feel like this is the most important tip for surviving the witching hour with a newborn.
Take turns and give yourself a break.
The witching hours can start to feel like they’ll never end. You might start feeling like a bad mom for not being able to soothe your baby, you might be on the verge of tears yourself, or you might just not know what to do (or all 3!).
If you need a break, please please take one!
Take turns with your spouse, even if you both are only bouncing your baby for 10 minutes each and then need to switch off, that’s okay.
If you’re home by yourself, put your baby in her crib or pack and play, shut the door, and take a breather. Go back in when you’re ready.
If you’re feeling frustrated, just place your baby somewhere safe and come back to her. She’ll be okay for a few minutes, and you’ll do yourself a favor coming back to comfort her with a fresh mind.
Surviving Your Newborn Baby’s Fussy Evenings
Now that you have more tricks up your sleeve to get through your baby’s difficult evenings, I’m hoping things will start to get better.
Remember, these tips might not eliminate your baby’s witching hour, but they should hopefully help make it a little shorter or easier. If you have any concerns that it could be something more serious, please see your baby’s doctor.
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