The witching hour is a period of time in the late afternoon or early evening when a baby can be extremely fussy or even inconsolable. A baby that won’t stop crying can quickly become a stressful situation, especially when it’s happening daily. The witching hour typically peaks somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks, but can continue until week 11 or 12. Not to worry though, as I will provide you with my top tips to help soothe a fussy baby.
Create a Calm Environment
Overstimulation and overtiredness are common culprits of a fussy baby. Turning off all lights and screens and creating a calm environment within your home can go a long way in helping to soothe your baby. If your baby tends to become fussy at around the same time each day, an hour prior to that, start turning the lights down and screens off. When possible, try to help your baby go into that time of day rested. Ensure your baby is not overly tired in the late afternoon or early evening by adding a contact nap when needed. As well, a dark nursery and a white noise machine are helpful tools when working to create a calm environment.
Swaddle or Wear Your Baby
Both swaddling and baby-wearing bring a feeling of security to your baby. Though it does not always induce sleep, baby-wearing usually calms babies. When you baby-wear during a walk outside, the fresh air can act as an off switch for your inconsolable baby. Baby-wearing can have a positive impact on your mental health and be your saving grace when your baby is in the newborn stage and has more needs.
Use a Pacifier or Cluster Feeding
Encourage your baby to suck using either a pacifier or cluster feeding. Sucking will be soothing for your baby and offer comfort that brings at least momentary peace. It is one of the five womb sensations that trigger a baby’s calming reflex. These sensations, known as the 5 S’s, were discovered by pediatrician, author, and child development specialist, Dr. Harvey Karp. Sucking is shown to lower a baby’s stress levels. If your baby wants to cluster feed, let him. If your baby takes a pacifier, try utilizing the football hold, as it is a very soothing position for most babies. This is where the baby is facing out and tilted slightly downward with his abdomen across your forearm. You can easily hold the pacifier in the mouth with your thumb, as your baby’s head rests in your hand.
Take a Break
Arrange for another caregiver to give you a much needed break. Taking time for yourself can make getting through this tough period much more manageable. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. Even a half-hour break, where someone else can hold your crying baby, does wonders for your mental health and your ability to cope. If you’re a one-woman show, know that it’s okay to put your baby down in a safe place (such as a crib or bassinet) and step away for a brief mental health break. Walk away, take some deep breaths, and find your center again, so you can return and transfer your calm energy to your baby. Remember, if you’re feeling stressed, your baby will feel stressed too. Remind yourself that sometimes, all you can do is hold your crying baby, even if you can’t make the crying stop. That is completely okay! It is more than enough! Your baby’s brain is still being bathed in all of the nurturing hormones that are released while they’re being held. Let that give you comfort even if the crying continues. Even if it doesn’t feel like it during the moment, you are lowering your baby’s stress.
The witching hour is not forever! Babies usually outgrow it by the time they’re nearing 10 to 12 weeks old. Keep in mind that the witching hour is different from a baby that is crying because they’re in pain (e.g. pulling up their legs, gassiness, or showing signs of acid reflux). If you’re struggling to discern if your baby is in pain or if the crying is just “normal” baby crying, please reach out. I would love to troubleshoot and come up with a solution or direct you to some resources that can help!