In European folklore, the “witching hour” refers to a time when supernatural creatures such as witches, demons, and ghosts are thought to be at their most powerful, and black magic at its most effective.
In modern times, the “witching hour” refers to an evening crankiness in babies that suddenly sets in and might make you think your little one has become possessed by the dark side!
Scarily enough, the witching “hour” rarely lasts for just an hour…but usually 2-4 hours! And although it’s extremely common, it’s still bewitching (if you will) when it happens to your baby!
Has your baby developed a witching hour?
WHEN DOES THE “WITCHING HOUR” OCCUR?
This evening cranky time is supposed to start around 2-3 weeks old, peak around 6 weeks old, and end sometime between 3-4 months old. And it will often occur between 6-10 p.m. It might not last that entire time, or might last longer and not all babies experience a witching hour.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
There is no real known cause of the witching hour…agh! There are, of course, many theories which include a low milk supply in the evenings for breast feeding moms or that a baby’s immature nervous system will cause it. But both of these theories have flaws (formula-fed babies can also experience the witching hour and not all babies experience it). So the bottom line is that no one really knows for sure why this occurs.
SHOULD WE STILL USE THE 15-MINUTE RULE?
If your baby is experiencing the witching hour, you’ll probably worry that you could sabotage your sleep training progress if you don’t use our 15-Minute Rule. But we say: don’t fret! If your baby is sleeping well for all other naps, you are not going to ruin anything by going to get her out of her crib while she’s crying during the witching hour. This is not a sleep training time. Our 15-Minute Rule is meant to teach self-soothing, so letting her cry when she just can’t sleep is not teaching her that. It’s just causing stress on her and the entire family. So don’t be afraid to use other techniques for your baby during this time.
HOW CAN I HELP MY BABY DURING IT? OTHER TECHNIQUES:
You can’t make the witching hour go away, but you can minimize the difficulty of it on your baby. Do not try to fix the witching hour by comfort feeding. Remember, on-demand feeding on demand is never a fix for anything! Try instead to shorten the schedule by 30 minutes, for three days and see if that helps. That means you will be adding some much needed daily calories to help your baby get through the later hours of her day.
If your baby is inconsolably crying during her nap time, you can soothe your baby by getting her out of her crib and then trying one of these other options, for 15 minutes, before putting her back down:
-Put your baby in a swing on the highest setting or a bouncer on the highest vibration.
–Turn up the volume higher on the nursery’s sound machine.
-Hold your baby and walk around outside, if weather permits.
–Massage your baby (baby massage tips)
COULD IT BE SOMETHING ELSE?
Be sure that this evening behavior isn’t a result of some other underlying cause! Eliminate these common suspects first:
Could it be a growth spurt?
Read all about growth spurts and how your family can survive the times, here.
Could it be due to a change?
If you have made a noticeable change to your baby’s normal pattern or environment like traveling, moving, having company staying in the house, etc., this can throw off your baby’s rhythm. Once the routine is re-established, she should return back to normal and you’ll know it wasn’t a witching hour after all.
Could it be gas?
Read about the signs of gas and how to help your gassy baby here.
Could it be colic?
Read about colic and colic treatments here.
Could your baby have become overstimulated?
Read about the signs of overstimulated babies, here.
Could your baby have become overtired?
Read about what happens when your baby gets overtired, here.
Could it be an illness?
If you note your baby is not growing and/or she is not having at least 5 wet diapers a day, then there may be something wrong and we would recommend you talk to your baby’s pediatrician right away. Also, remember you know your baby best, so if your gut instinct is telling you something’s wrong, never hesitate to seek your pediatrician’s advice.
Related Posts: How to Become a Practical Parent, Baby’s Nightcap, Overtired Baby, Overstimulated Baby, Burping Basics, All Our PPB Schedules, Are You Ready for the 1st 3 Weeks?, Baby Blueprint: Year One, Napping No-No’s, Troubleshooting Naps, 15-Minute Rule, Crib Essentials, Nursery Organization Must-Haves, Nursery, Night One!