A Sleep Therapist Reveals 4 Things That Work To Beat 'Witching Hour'
It’s one of the things that new parents fear most. It’s the thing to which there is no real explanation, therefore it leaves parents scrambling, clutching at different remedies, hoping that they’ve found the one to cure… ‘witching hour’!
Da da daaaaaaa!
Yep, you may have guessed based on that dramatic score that ‘witching hour’ is scary for many. It also tends to happen once you’ve already been caring for a baby all day long, operating on little sleep yourself, everyone is tired and over it, and then BAM! Witching hour begins.
So what is ‘witching hour’?
There is so simple diagnosis for ‘witching hour’, as there are many factors that can cause it (more on than later). However, ‘witching hour’ usually begins in the late afternoon and starts with simple fussing, which can then escalate to crying - and then screaming - for no particular reason. FUN, right?
‘Witching hour’ typically begins around 2 - 3 weeks after your baby's due date, often peaking at 6 weeks, and then it is usually resolved by 3 - 4 months of age. That can seem like a long time, but there are things that can be done.
What causes ‘witching hour’?
There isn’t a clear answer to this, however there are a few potential causes for ‘witching hour’, including being overstimulated, overtired, tummy discomfort, and wanting to cluster feed.
What if the baby is still crying?
Colic could be the culprit here. It’s worth booking in some time with your paediatrician to explore the possibility of colic and its treatments.
So, what do we do to address ‘witching hour’?
Yep. ‘Witching’ hour is crazy! It’s stress-inducing, it leaves new parents clamoring for answers… for relief! And unfortunately it’s just not that simple.
Which is why we sought the help of Australia baby and child sleep expert, Steph Goudin (aka Sleep By Steph) to find out exactly what we should be doing once that late afternoon/early evening witching hour no doubt begins.
Sleep by Steph as 4 tips to help with 'witching hour':
1. Watch your baby’s awake times
“Ensure your baby is getting enough sleep across the entire 24-hour period of day and night. A baby who is getting a solid stretch of night sleep (with feeds throughout) will go into their day feeling well rested. A well-rested baby will nap better throughout the day, and this will help to avoid extreme overtiredness come late afternoon / evening when the “witching hour” typically occurs,” says Steph.
2. Establish ‘day’ and ‘night’ with your baby ASAP
“Establish a clearly defined ‘day’ and a clearly defined ‘night’ for your baby from the day they are born,” says Steph. “Always start their day between 6-7am (morning time) and aim for a 6 pm bedtime. This ensures the night stretch of sleep is long enough and the day stretch isn’t too long, also helping to avoid extreme overtiredness in the late afternoon / evening.”
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3. Implement a bedtime routine, even from day one!
“Implement a familiar bedtime routine, followed by the early bedtime of 6pm, to help signal to your baby the day is coming to an end and it’s time to ‘wind down’ for the night. Start the bedtime routine around 5pm with a warm, relaxing bath followed by a breast or bottle feed in their dim, dark, cozy nursery before putting them down for the night at 6pm,” explains Steph.
4. Don’t just assume that cluster feeding is the answer!
“Aim to feed your baby 3-4 hourly during the day and stick to that in the late afternoon / early evening stretch too”, explains Steph. “When babies feed frequently or ‘cluster feed’ during the ‘witching hour’ period, which many say is what you should be doing during this unsettled time, it contributes hugely to the overtiredness and extended periods of crying as their little digestive systems become overloaded and unable to cope.”
Looking for some face-to-face advice? Visit Steph at our 2023 Melbourne One Fine Baby Expos at the Royal Exhibition Building! Get your FREE tickets right here...