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The Witching Hour – What Is It and How To Get Through It

Every single person who has had a baby will probably have experienced the ‘witching hour’ also known as ‘arsenic hour’. It’s when the wheels fall off, right about the same time each day. Depending on your child, it’s usually anywhere between 4 and 6pm, and can last for between an hour and even up to four hours. It usually begins at around four to six weeks old, and starts to ease at around 12 weeks, but some may even experience it in varying degrees until around 5 months of age.

The wheels falling off usually means lots of crying, screaming, fussiness, back arching, not much sleep, and a whole lot of parental (and child) distress. While it’s difficult, as it comes right at the time that you could do with a power nap, or need to get dinner sorted, it’s very common and it doesn’t last forever. Also remember that it’s a very difficult time for your baby. So while you are feeling frustrated, your baby is distressed and needs your comforting to help them calm.

There is no exact science behind what causes this particularly unsettled period in the day but research suggests it’s a combination of over-stimulation, tiredness, hunger, temperament and quite possibly a developmental stage. Think of it this way, if you feel like climbing into bed and pulling the doona over your head at about this time, that feeling is magnified for your baby, who is still in the very early stages of coming to the know the world in which they live and regulating their emotions is not one of their skills as yet.

The first thing that will help you get through is remembering that almost all parents across the world are experiencing the same, and it has nothing to do with your parenting. Here are some more strategies that may help manage the witching hour.

Do Some Food Prep

If you can manage to do some preparation for dinner earlier in the afternoon, even if it’s as simple of chopping some veggies in advance. This will make all the difference as you can spend the time comforting your baby without worry too much about not eating until 10pm. If some basic preparation is done, you’ll have a head start.

Cluster Feed or Comfort Feed

It is ok to feed your baby for comfort. Sucking for comfort is completely natural for your baby, so if you can, follow their lead and allow them to feed if it helps calms them. If feeding frequently for a few hours in the evening results in a calm baby, it’s worth giving it a try. The good thing about cluster feeding is that it tops baby up before hopefully a longer early night nap, while also stimulating your supply that can be depleted a little in the evening.

Slow The Pace

Overstimulation can be an issue (for everyone) in the later part of the day, so it is worth trying to slow things down and create a bit of calm at this time of the day. Turn the TV off or down, put away devices, dim the lights, give your baby a warm bath with a message.  Anything that makes the environment less frenetic will help. Even think about some quiet white noise in the background.

Use A Baby Carrier

If you have other children it is likely you won’t be able to just stop all activity. Keeping your baby close to you in a baby carrier or sling will help keep them calm while you go about your evening activities. Even an evening stroll with your baby in close contact can be really relaxing for all.

Hand Your Baby Over

Sometimes the tension between you and your baby can escalate as you try your best to comfort, but feel like you’re not having much success. Handing your baby over to your partner, friend, sister (or who ever is available) – even for 10 or 15 minutes can change the dynamic in the home and which can be the beginning of the wind down.

Try to remember, you are not doing anything wrong, nor is your baby; it won’t last forever, and as long as you and your baby are safe, it is ok to do what ever you need to do to get through the witching hour.

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