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People mention the witching hour when talking about the most spiritually active time of the night. It’s usually around 3 a.m. and supposedly when spirits are most spooky, roaming the Earth to cause disruption. Children have nothing to do with that, but parents like to joke that babies have their own witching hour.
A baby’s witching hour woes begin when they’re most fussy in the evening. Here are a few tricks you can try to settle your child. Simple changes could be all they need to soothe themselves into a calmer mood.
What Causes Baby Witching Hour?
Baby witching hour is any time at night when infants get restless or grumpy before bed. Parents often deal with this common situation between early evening around 6 p.m. and midnight.
There are numerous causes for baby witching hours, depending on your family’s routine. Your child may cry during this time due to triggers like:
- Having too much energy
- Feeling sick, which can happen six to eight times during your child’s first year of life
- Needing something, like a diaper change
- Having digestive issues, like lactose intolerance or cramping caused by food allergies
- Feeling scared because they’re suddenly alone
- Experiencing a growth sprut
Fussy behaviours aren’t new to parents with infants, but the witching hour causes may be extra frustrating when you’re ready to settle down for the night too. Learning how to recognize and deal with this dilemma is the best way to make life better for yourself and your baby.
Common Witching Hour Baby Symptoms
Although numerous triggers may upset some very young babies more than others, parents can identify common witching hour aka devil’s hour baby symptoms to understand what they’re dealing with. Look for signs like:
- Excessive crying
- More grumpiness than usual
- A dislike for normal calming strategies
These symptoms are especially noticeable for parents of typically calm infants. However, you can always keep a baby journal to track their routine symptoms and spot patterns like witching hour woes.
Best Baby Witching Hour Tips
Once you know what causes baby witching hour stems, you can try various ideas to make your baby more comfortable. They’ll appreciate getting more rest and you’ll regain your quiet nightly routine. When your child learns to settle down more quickly, you’ll also get free time to explore new passions or go to bed a bit earlier.
1. Double-Check Your Breastfeeding Style
Infants need to eat every one to three hours as young babies and every two to four hours as they get older. Your baby may experience baby-witching hours at night if they haven’t been getting enough milk during your breastfeeding sessions.
Crying and restlessness could be a sign your child is hungry. Even if you just fed them recently, reflecting on your breastfeeding routine could solve your witching hour woes.
When your baby latches, you should feel a deep tug in your breast. It ensures your baby has a secure hold and gets their milk easily. If your nipples crack or feel raw, it could indicate a poor latch when they breastfeed.
A latching specialist at your local hospital or doctor’s office could help or you can find videos online guiding new parents through proper breastfeeding techniques. Once your baby feels satiated, they may settle down more easily while you’re making dinner or relaxing by the TV at night.
2. Give Them Warm Baths
Research shows bathing in warm water deactivates sympathetic nervous system responses maintaining your stress. It’s why you can slide into a bubble bath and feel your entire body relax. The temperature soothes tense muscles while actively lowering your pressure.
Since the baby witching hour starts around 6 p.m., it may interrupt when you make dinner. Try giving your infant a bath before preparing your nightly meals.
They’ll enjoy the calming physical touch as you wash them while the water relieves their stress. When it’s time to put them in a bouncer while you make food, they’ll be calm enough to entertain themselves or even fall asleep.
You could also turn this witching hour routine into a bonding activity by asking your partner or a family member to help you bathe your infant. The socialization soothes babies with extra comfort, making them feel safer and more relaxed.
3. Try a Quiet Dinner Plan
Your favorite meatloaf or lemon chicken recipe might be delicious, but your dinners might take more than an hour to make. That’s extra time away from your infant and more time spent making excessive noises.
When witching hour baby symptoms become a nightly challenge, consider revising your dinner plans every so often. You could make a low-effort meal or order delivery so your baby doesn’t associate that time of night with feeling alone for too long.
It’s also helpful to have a delicious backup plan waiting in the wings during your baby’s fussiest evenings. If they need more attention than usual, you can cook a frozen pizza and skip the prep work. Your meal will be ready in 45 minutes, giving you ample time to soothe your little one and reserve your energy.
4. Initiate More Skin-to-Skin Contact
Babies typically outgrow witching hour woes when they become three to four months old. That’s the age when they’ll sleep for much longer periods instead of relying on frequent naps. Reduced feeding times help with this transition, but you don’t have to wait that long to experience peace in the evenings.
Try giving your baby more skin-to-skin contact before or after making dinner. They may get fussy because they’re lonely or nervous without resting on your shoulder.
Researchers find skin-to-skin bonding highly effective at soothing infants, and keeping their body temperature normal. When initiated after giving birth, it reduces a baby’s stress through body heat and the calming pulse of their parent’s heartbeat.
The process also bonds babies with their parents. If you don’t already have this practice as part of your daily routine, make it your witching hour solution.
Your child may feel more comfortable being apart from you during your evening activities if you share a stronger bond. It’s a quick quieting trick that works in minutes if loneliness is causing your infant’s fussy behavior.
5. Revisit Your Crib Training Practices
Your baby may be fine through the early evening hours until it’s time for bed. When your witching hour begins at bedtime, it could be a sign your crib training isn’t going very well.
Infants transition to sleeping in their own cribs at least four to six months after birth. Experts also recommend sharing a room with them for their first six months, then moving them to a nursery if desired.
Sometimes, the change in sleeping routine causes babies extra stress. You may need to keep their crib in your room a little longer so they don’t associate it with being alone.
You could also shift their naps to an earlier time in the afternoon. They may struggle to fall asleep because they feel rested, then become panicked when left alone in their crib while being wide awake.
If you have any questions about your child’s sleep struggles, ask their doctor. They may recommend specific books on crib training or evening routine adjustments specific to their health history.
6. Play Soft Background Noise
Adults know what it’s like to lie in bed and stay awake with worries. Thoughts and anxieties can keep you from sleeping. Although infants don’t have the same cognitive awareness as adults, their anxious feelings can be overwhelming, too.
Try playing soft background noises while your infant fusses during their witching hour. Filling the room with quiet noise makes the space more comfortable, which makes an overtired baby feel relaxed and have a better sleep. Scary silence won’t irritate your baby, leading to a better evening routine.
Look into various white or brown noise machines. They’re not distracting or energizing because the fuzzy sounds don’t feature voices or lyrics.
YouTube also has plenty of free playlists designed specifically for background noises. See if your infant calms down while listening to murmuring voices in a virtual coffee shop or steady rain showers. Some background sound apps also offer free noises, which you can play through a laptop or tablet in the same room as your child.
7. Put Them in a Bouncer
Whether you find one at a thrift store or buy one online, a bouncer could be a great solution for your witching hour challenges. Babies often love them because they replicate the gentle movement of you rocking them.
Bouncers may also remind infants of the gentle rocking they felt in the womb. Either way, it could immediately soothe your child when they get fussy at night.
Try placing them in the bouncer while you make dinner or get ready for bed during the witching hours. If the motion calms your infant and they can see you not far away, it could be the fastest trick to helping them settle down.
8. Cut Your Dinner Into Pieces
The last-minute responsibilities you handle at night could take you away from your infant momentarily. They may not enjoy waiting in their carrier on the table while you make dinner or sit down to eat.
When you’re ready to eat, cut your food into bite-sized pieces. You can rock or hold your baby in one arm, and use the other to eat. Since you already cut everything on your plate, you’ll have a free hand throughout your meal.
9. Give Them a Baby Massage
Bouncing and rocking your infant isn’t the only way to soothe them when they’re upset. You can also give them a baby massage or follow an exercise routine. Rubbing their muscles gently activates the nervous system which reduces stress more directly than just shushing them.
Rub your flat fingers gently up your baby’s chest and down their arms. Repeat the massage a few times before running your hand clockwise over their belly.
You can also trace your fingertips from the middle of their forehead down their temples, over their cheekbones, and to their chin. Try various massage techniques to see what your little one responds best to when they’re upset.
10. Visit Your Doctor
You work hard to ensure your baby’s health and well-being. Their immune system is still forming a response against common viruses, so babies can easily get sick. It’s an essential part of strengthening their immune system but may contribute to their witching hour woes.
Call your child’s doctor if you’ve tried numerous tricks to settle your baby in the evening hours. Their crying and fussy behavior could indicate they have a virus or undiagnosed medical condition.
Your doctor will likely ask questions about other potential symptoms to better gauge the issue at hand. If necessary, you can visit them in person for an infant check-up.
When Do Babies Outgrow Witching Hour?
Babies typically outgrow their witching hours when they’re between three to four months old. At that point, they’ll eat and nap less often. Less frequent nap sessions mean they’ll expend more energy during the day, making the evening hours less eventful.
In the meantime, you can use these baby witching hour tips to soothe your infant. This stage won’t last forever. There are numerous ways to restore peace in your household until that time comes.
What Are the Differences Between Colic and Witching Hour?
You might worry your child has colic and not get the treatment they need because you’re convinced they have witching hour symptoms. Although both situations result in your infant crying more than usual, colic has specific symptoms your doctor will ask about if you feel concerned:
- Does your baby cry for more than three consecutive hours each day?
- Does this extended crying happen three days or more each week?
- Has the crying occurred for three weeks or longer?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, your child might have colic. Gas is typically the cause, so colic typically goes away on its own. However, you can always schedule an appointment with your baby’s doctor to discuss other treatment options.
Witching hour discomfort typically only occurs at night and only for a few hours at a time. It also may not happen every evening.
Create a Calming Evening Routine
After parents learn what causes baby witching hour, the solutions are simple. Try these lifestyle adjustments to soothe your infant’s anxiety at night. They should help your child settle down quickly so your family returns to peaceful evenings together.