5 Tips for Surviving the Witching Hour
If you’re reading this, I’m sorry. You must be experiencing the torture known as the witching hour. As a momma who has just started to come out on the other side, I feel for you. Surviving the witching hour can be tough, but over the last few months, I learned a few tricks that I hope will help make your fussy evenings a little easier.
What is the Witching Hour?
The witching hour (or hours) are when a normally content baby experiences a fussy period for a few hours, several nights a week (sometimes every night). The witching hour usually happens between 5PM and midnight. Your typically happy baby becomes fussy and upset and normal soothing methods (like feeding, rocking, and changing) don’t seem to work.
We definitely experienced the witching hour with Weston, but it didn’t happen every night and it never lasted long. I could usually get him calmed down by nursing him and I’d just commit to cluster feeding for a few hours straight. Nothing prepared us for what we would experience with Elliott. Every day around 4:30PM, Elliott would start to completely lose his mind. He would go from content to full on red-faced screaming in a matter of seconds. I’d try to feed him, change him, walk around with him… nothing helped. He would scream like he was in pain and honestly, it broke my heart. I felt like a failure as mother who couldn’t console her child. And the sound of your newborn screaming for hours on end is enough to make anyone go a little crazy. If you’re in the thick of it right now, just know that you’re not alone and as awful as it is, it’s totally normal.
Why does the Witching Hour Happen?
There are many reasons why the witching hour may occur in babies. Most believe that the witching hour can be attributed to overstimulation, overtiredness, a need to cluster feed before bedtime, or gas. Whatever the cause may be, as moms, we just want to fix it!
What can I do to Survive the Witching Hour?
After a couple weeks of really struggling through the witching hour (like cry right along with the baby kind of struggle), I finally started to find some strategies that helped us survive those fussy evenings.
Gerber Soothe Probiotic Drops
I had a friend whose baby was due on the exact same day as Elliott. Like every other woman who was pregnant at the same time I was, she had her baby before me. They, too, were struggling with fussy evenings. She said that her pediatrician recommended Gerber Soothe Probiotic Drops. You better believe I went straight to Target and got a bottle that day (even though I could have gotten them cheaper on Amazon). This tiny bottle of drops is a bit pricey, but I was desperate and willing to try anything. I don’t know if it was the drops or coincidence, but the day after we started using them, Elliott’s fussiness began to dissipate. I highly recommend these drops, but consult with your pediatrician first!
Babywearing has probably been the biggest parenting change I’ve made from my first baby to my second. I hardly ever wore Weston, and when I did, it was in a structured carrier for maybe 30 minutes at a time. Elliott has probably spent 10% of his life strapped to my chest. I decided to give my Boba wrap another try when I read that it could help calm babies during the witching hour. The wrap had always intimidated me, but I found a great YouTube video that showed me exactly how to put it on, and guess what… it worked! Elliott immediately relaxed and fell asleep and I was able to cook, eat, and clean up before he even thought about waking up. The wrap was a game changer when it came to surviving the witching hour. And, since I’ve discovered it’s his favorite place to nap, I use it everyday while Weston is napping so that I can squeeze in a few solid hours of blogging (yup… he’s strapped to the front of me as I write this). The Boba wrap has also been great for trips to the park or other play places. It makes it so much easier for me to chase Weston around while keeping Elliott safe and happy.
One particularly fussy day, my husband was tending to Elliott and I was trying to get some cleaning done. I realized that every time I turned on the vacuum cleaner, he would instantly stop crying. That evening, when the witching hour struck, I found a YouTube video that plays 10 straight hours of vacuum cleaner sounds, and put it next to Elliott. I turned it up so that it was pretty loud (like a vacuum) and it worked! I’ve read that it’s soothing because it sounds similar to the blood rushing through our veins while they’re in the womb (which is also very loud). Now, the only problem with this trick is that the sound of a vacuum cleaner can be extra annoying. My husband is not a fan, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the sound of a crying baby. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
When Weston had his witching hour fits, we used to give him a dose of Gripe Water and it really would work like magic on him. Gripe water is an all-natural herbal supplement used to treat gas, colic, and upset stomachs. You can read more about it and check out the ingredient list here. While it worked like a charm for Weston, we didn’t have the same luck with Elliott. It’s true what they say about babies, no two are the same. So while it didn’t help us survive our last encounter with the witching hour, I still wanted to share it because it could very well work for you.
The 5 S’s
In my desperate Google searches for witching hour survival tips, I discovered the 5 S’s outlined by Dr. Harvey Karp in the book, The Happiest Baby on the Block. The 5 S’s stand for swaddle, side or stomach position, shush, swing, and suck. The idea is that you can calm a fussy baby by implementing the 5 S’s, all at once. So, you swaddle your baby, hold them on their side or stomach, make a loud shushing sound (or turn on the vacuum cleaner video), swing them in your arms, and give them a pacifier. While this method of calming can be a lot of work, it really does work. Again, the idea is that it mimics the feeling of being in the womb. Your baby is wrapped up tight, moving, sucking, and hearing the sounds that are familiar to life before birth.
When do Babies Outgrow the Witching Hour?
The witching hour usually starts to occur around two or three weeks old, peaks at six weeks, and is typically outgrown by three months. If you’re at the peak of the witching hour, I know that three months sounds like an eternity away, but I promise, it will slowly fade and get better and better as the weeks progress. Elliott will be four months old in a few days and I’m happy to say the witching hour is behind us. We’ve moved on to the next great struggle, the four month sleep regression.
I really hope these tips help you find some relief from the witching hour and gain a tiny bit of your sanity back. Regardless, I hope you know that this is normal and is in no way a reflection of your parenting abilities. And don’t forget, each day that passes means you’re one step closer to saying goodbye to the witching hour once and for all.
I had no intention of writing this last paragraph, but writing these types of posts is cathartic in a way and they help me see motherhood a little more clearly. When I say we struggled with the witching hour, I mean we really struggled. I cried a lot of tears, had thin patience with my husband and toddler, and felt like I was awful at being a mother of two. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, and it’s a lot easier to see clearly when you’re not in the thick of it, but now that’s it’s over, I realize that so are the first four months of my son’s life. I kept wishing he’d hurry up and outgrow it, and he did. But he also outgrew his 0 -3 month clothes, his bassinet in my room, and his ability to fall asleep in my arms. Motherhood is hard, and it comes with a lot of stages that aren’t so fun, but before you start wishing them away, just take a moment to soak up the fact that your baby will never be this small again. I know its easier said than done, but giving yourself a reality check about how quickly the time passes every once in a while is probably my best tip of all.