Most parents encounter the witching hour at some point in their baby’s infancy. You start making dinner at 5pm and all of a sudden your baby begins to cry. It seems like it has come out of nowhere, your gurgling, happy baby is suddenly replaced by a squirming, wriggling baby that you can’t settle. Welcome to your witching hour baby.
So here my 4 ways to stop the witching hour;
Many babies become overtired by dinnertime and this is because their ‘sleep tank’ has been emptied and now the stress hormone, cortisol, rises in your baby, making your baby distressed and difficult to soothe.
One way to prevent your witching hour baby is by helping your baby have evenly spaced naps throughout the day. This helps ‘top up’ their sleep tank to ensure that they do not become overtired by evening. You may have heard about the phrase ‘sleep breeds sleep’ and this is the reason behind it.
Top Recommendation; Many of my clients recommend the app ‘Huckleberry App’ https://huckleberrycare.com which helps track your baby’s naps and help identify your baby’s ‘sweet spot’ for naps once your baby begins to develop a routine. Although do remember your baby’s sleep needs will change as they develop.
Pay attention to your baby’s early tired cues such as losing interest in toys, turning their face away from you, glazed expression. These will all indicate that your baby is getting tired before the more obvious sleep cues such as rubbing eyes and crying begin.
Babies only have a short tolerance for stimulation as their brain processes all of the different sensory elements. For example, if your baby has been swimming then you may notice that he has a long nap shortly afterwards because the stimulation of the water, the temperature change, the noises, etc has made him very tired. It is important to be attuned to your baby’s cues to prevent overstimulation. If your baby turns their head away from you or avoids eye contact then that is a good indication that they are overstimulated and your witching hour baby is just around the corner.
If you suspect your baby is becoming overstimulated, take away the activity that is causing the stimulation by either going into another room which is quieter and dimly lit or turning the TV or other noise producing appliances off and avert your baby’s eyes towards the floor by placing them in a position such as tiger in the tree or laid across your knee.
3. Cluster Feeding
In the evening you may find that your baby is constantly wanting to feed, especially if you are breastfeeding. You may think that this is comfort feeding but it could in fact be cluster feeding. This is where your baby is feeding constantly on an evening in order to up your milk production for the following day.
Your baby is very clever and knows how much milk they need which maybe much more when they are going through a development leap. By feeding more they are increasing your milk production. There is no miracle cure for this, unfortunately you just have to sit and feed your baby, knowing this phase is exactly that, a phase and it will pass.
Your baby may be suffering from a build up of wind and gas from their feeds throughout the day. This is a common cause for the witching hour baby. Babies have an immature digestion so if they take in excess air as they feed (for various reasons) then it sits in the gut, creating an uncomfortable and bloated feeling. This results in your baby squirming, wriggling and crying as they try and dispel the gas that is in her tummy.
Top Recommendation; baby massage is really great for helping mature the digestive system and rid the tummy of those troublesome air bubbles. Happy Sleepy Baby www.happysleepybaby.com is currently hosting virtual baby massage and baby yoga classes which is excellent for getting the trapped air moving through the gut. Rebecca at Happy Sleepy Baby also runs specialist one to one colic workshops focusing on a tummy routine to prevent this build up from occurring which can be conducted via Zoom.
This too shall pass…..
You may notice that the witching hour begins to become less of an everyday occurrence as your baby develops. Whether this is because they become more alert, more accepting of stimulation or their digestive system matures. Remember that it will pass but the above tips will help you through those difficult first few months.
If you are struggling with a witching hour baby and would like more information on how to help your baby, I offer colic support via my virtual consultations; find out more here; https://colicsos.com/say-goodbye-to-your-colic-baby/