We’ve all been there.
‘Awww honey what a sweet baby we have! Who’s our cutie pie? Who, who?’
*Looks at watch: 18:00
If you’re finding yourself with the same conundrum, you’re certainly not alone. Perfectly peaceful and playful days turn into sudden red-faced tears and mummy more than likely pulling her hair out.
Good thing is, it’s not uncommon. In fact, this strange phenomenon has many scratching their heads. Bad thing is, it happens at the time of the day when all your superpowers are spent.
By this time you’ve probably been zombying around since 6am and not even made it to the shower yet.
Well, join me today as I try to demistify our dilemma. I can’t promise any miracles, but I can offer support and a virtual shoulder to weep on, having been through it myself.
What is the witching hour?
Briefly put, the witching hour is known as the late afternoon/evening in which baby mysteriously starts to get fussy. It can last between 1-6 hours, the former if you get lucky. The latter, I got your back.
Common causes of the witching hour can include one or more of the following:
- Gassy baby – if mummy is breastfeeding and has eaten a large amount of cabbage, could be that she’s got trapped wind
- Tiredness – try and look for the early signs of your tired baby, i.e. eye or face rubbing, staring vacantly into space…
- Too much stimulaton – babies are not born with the wind down instinct, they might need help by dimming the lights, speaking quietly, singing a lullaby…
- Cluster feeding – babies, especially those that breastfeed have the need to feed a lot before that night time shut eye because the milk also contains higher fat content
- Attention – sometimes babies just get bored at this time of day when mum’s attention is usually driven elsewhere with dad coming home or cooking dinner
Colic in baby
We’ve heard of colic and windy babies but why does this happen? Colic is a term given by doctors to describe the inconsolable crying that can often happen in newborn babies.
Unfortunately, no one can actually describe definetively what colic is, but there are some possible reasons as to why it happens and I have some solutions you can try below.
Gas and wind trouble
So this is probably one of the most common causes of a colicky baby or the ongoign witching hour saga. That’s because newborns have an under-developed digestive system and can find it hard to adapt to the increasing amount of breastmilk.
You’ll probably notice it happening when you see your little one’s tummy become a little puffy-looking and hard at the touch, just as our tummy when we’re bloated.
Another way of telling if your baby is having trouble digesting is to check their face – are they redder than usual? Are they wriggling and moving constantly? Some babies do this naturally to try and get their bowels moving.
What you can try:
- gently massage your baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction
- turn baby on her tummy and rock her in a forwards/backwards motion
- give her a warm bath to relax her
- hold her legs and make gentle pushes into her tummy
I can usually tell when my baby has a bad tummy as it seems like nothing will soothe her! Check the frequency of her dirty nappies – don’t just go with the average as every baby is different. You know your baby, go with your mother hen instinct.
We’ve all been there. Baby won’t nap, we keep her up a little longer, she gets too tired and baby won’t nap again – it’s a vicious circle.
Although it can be a struggle, it’s important to put baby down even if he resists at first. I’m not talking about an around-the-clock schedule as this can still be done on a baby-led time as well.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a newborn tired. Over the next few months, your baby will be spending more time awake chatting away and playing, but chances are for now even a half hour period in between the feed-change-sleep ritual is more than enough to tire her out.
Check out the first signs of a tired baby.
A little similar to an over-tired baby but different in one sense: a baby will be over stimulated by their surroundings, sights and sounds, as oppose to the time they spend awake.
Combine the two and you’ve got a baby nightmare.
What is it that overstimulates a new baby then?
Let’s think of it from a baby perspective.
You’re all cosy and warm in this dark atmosphere in mummy’s tummy. Suddenly you’re born to the outside world, have strangers cooing at you in your face, toys you don’t yet know how to play with and colours you don’t differentiate.
We can easily see here how easily a baby can become over-stimulated. See a baby is constantly learning at an incredibly fast rate and the time baby spends sleeping is time that he absorbs all that new information.
It’s like when you open 12 simultaneous windows on your internet browser and then your computer starts slowing down – it just can’t handle it.
What can you do to prevent over-stimulation? Try and get baby into a little rythm from the earliest age possible. This might mean that evening time the lights dim, gentle music and baby goes to a familiar place in the house.
This is also known as cocooning and is the reason why so many babies need mom in the evening – they need to return to that familiar place.
Woah woah say what?
This is a biggie. If someone had told me this BEFORE I began my breastfeeding journey, let me tell you that life would have been a whole lot easier.
Cause when I suddenly couldn’t get up from the sofa even to get myself a drink in the evening, I really had to change my aspectations and my scheduling.
But what does cluster feeding actually mean?
The term cluster feeding actually refers to a certain time in the evening where baby is on-off the breast, often falling asleep and only wanting to sleep with boob life support.
Babies will do this for various reasons:
- Baby needs security and comfort after a hard day learning new things
- Needs to stock up on milk and have his tummy full
- Boosts mom’s supply during a growth spurt
Unfortunately, I don’t really have any special tip for this one apart from maybe having a little breastfeeding station set up near to where you usually do your evening nursing sessions and stick with it! Read more about it this further on…
Last but definetly not least, baby needs your attention.
Baby doesn’t know that you have a million and one other things to do alongside raising a younr creature. He doesn’t know about the enormous mountain of washing piling up full of his dirty little clothes.
He doesn’t know you haven’t had the chance to eat in hours.
All he knows is that he sees you whizzing around picking up the trail of mess and wonders why one earth he isn’t getting any of your attention.
Now, I’m all for baby independent play, even from a young age – but if it’s been a while since you checked in on baby and sat down to play silly games together, baby will notice that!
Nothing gets past them!
If you’re stuck for evening-friendly baby activites, check out…..
What can I do to get through this??
As I said, if I had a magic wand, one of the first things I would remediate would be to give all parents 8 hour sleep in a row.
Now, that’s a little unrealistic, let’s face it. But there are some things you can take into account to try and survive a little better.
Sounds like a no-brainer right? Trust me, it will work in the long run though.
You know that frustrating sensation when you plan a little time in your day to get down to a specific task, only you end up getting interrumpted by a phone call, someone knocking on the door, dogs barking or other disruptions?
It’s a little similar to when you plan to make dinner, put another load of washing on, have some actual YOU time…and you end up with your baby in your arms for hours on end.
Reduce your expectations
BUT what if you approached this all from a different mindset? What if, instead of setting yourself up for failure, you prepared the path to nursing success?
See, the key is to get all that you want done during the first half of the day: all the errands, cooking and what have you so that you can really relax during the witching hour instead of stressing over what you should be doing.
Here’s to binge-watching something with your other half!
2) Get comfortable
To put it bluntly: the more stressed out you are, the more bubs will be too. That’s cause babies pick up on our moods. So now you know that you have to prepare for the evening, you can start a routine – both for you and baby.
Make sure you’re on the comfiest part of the sofa or maybe you’d prefer a special armchair for you, which can provide extra comfort.
Something else you can do is set yourself up a breastfeeding station or just put your necessities in a basket that you can carry with you about the house for easy access.
Prepare your basket of essentials…
Some things you may want to include could be:
- water bottle – breastfeeding can be thirsty business
- cloths or wipes to attend to any potential mess
- a couple of clean nappies/diapers to change baby
- phone charger/music/favourite technology
- book to read
Of course, you may find yourself not even needing any of the above, but at least you know that they’re there if you need them.
Now settle in for some cosy cuddling with your bundle of joy!
3) Call in your partner
It doesn’t matter how prepared you may be, breastfeeding and taking care of your baby can really zap you out.
If you have your partner with you, try and get them involved a little so that you can take a breather even for ten minutes to get out and stretch your legs or take a shower!
It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated, the idea is that you get a mom break so you don’t go crazy!
Bonding time with daddy
One of the biggest things that babies really seek during the witching hour is warmth and closeness – so why not hand baby over to dad in a scarf and he can take her for a stroll? Read more how daddy can do his bit here.
I cannot stress this enough: being a mom is hard work enough, don’t try and do it on a low battery. You need time for yourself to recharge and refresh, it will even do your baby good!
When you come back from your time out, you’ll already be feeling more relaxed and at ease again and able to give more of yourself.
I’m not saying you’re not superwoman, but it’s okay to ask for help – you shouldn’t have to do it alone! It takes a village to raise a child….
4) Ensure they get enough nap time
This basically ties into what I said earlier in this post, the more tired your baby is, the more difficult it can be for them to actually drop off.
One of the reasons for this accumulated fatigue can be not getting enough naps in the day, or not enough time actually napping.
If you’re having trouble getting the little one down for a nap succesively and staying down, you might want to try a simple naptime routine.
Try first reducing anything that stimulates baby – could be toys, people, sound. Put a little gentle music on or some white noise (I prefer music as white noise never worked for me) – babies respond well to soft piano and classical music.
Make sure that she has a fresh nappy so she doesn’t wake up from being wet, and is in comfy clothes. You can read a story or sing a little song – the key here is consistency. Also try and put them down (wherever possible) in the same place so they associated it with naptime.
What time you choose to put your baby down for a nap is entirely up to you and depends on what schedule you’re using.
I like to use a combined schedule which means I have a time in mind that I know she should nap but I will be flexible in the sense that if I see she is already tired, I willl put her down before or if we’re out I might wait until in the car.
To find out exactly how much sleep your baby needs according to their age, you can consult this chart by Pregnant Chicken.
5) Treat yourself mama!
I know, I know, it has little to do with bubs but in the long run, the more relaxed you are, the better parent you can offer yourself as to your child.
What do I mean by treating yourself? Well, only you will know what you respond best to. For some it will be getting in some alone time, turning up the volume and having a good old dance (yup, that’s me!). For others it may be your favourite dessert…
Or maybe you just need a good catch up and rant to an old friend. Mom life can get overwhelming when you have a young person to constantly attend to but making yourself a priority is crucial for your sanity.
If your partner is not around, could a friend chip in while you take a hot bath and decompress? Could you afford two hours of childcare a week while you catch up with what you love to do?
You’re not alone
Please, reach out to someone close to you if you find yourself really struggling. You can leave me a comment to if you like and I will get back to you.
Moms, let’s support each other during this challenging time! Thanks for reading, please share so this can reach more new mommies.