The “witching hour” (which unfortunately can last a lot longer than just the one hour!), is a period of time when bub can be unsettled no matter what you do. Usually all the things that work to settle your baby at other times, aren’t working and you can have a very unhappy bubba on your hands.
Sometimes referred to as colic, the witching hour tends to start when a baby is a few weeks old. There can be an increase in bub’s unsettled behaviour during the late afternoon through to the evening, with some experiencing bouts of excessive crying. Often this behaviour decreases more and more as bub gets closer to 4 -5 months of age.
Not all babies experience this behaviour and the jury is still out as to what causes it, but the most likely reasons are;
- Being overtired
- Fatigue from the day
- Lower milk supply
- Silent reflux
Babies need to process all they have experienced through the day, and sleep helps them recharge from all of these experiences. If bub hasn’t slept well during the day, or the day has been particularly busy then they may not have been able to recharge as much as they needed to. This means as the day goes on, it gets harder and harder for them to settle well and catch up on their sleep. Unfortunately, the more overtired a baby is, the harder it is for them to sleep, even when they really need to.
Sometimes in the afternoons, milk supply can dip, so if a hungry tired baby is not getting that milk in quick enough, this can contribute to unsettled behaviour.
The good news is that this behaviour will not be around forever! The best advice is firstly, stick with your usual settling support for bub as this familiarity will give them the message that even though they may be feeling a bit irritable and unsettled, they can depend on you for predictable behaviour.
Secondly, get as much support as you can during the “witching hour”, in whatever way works best for you. Have your partner take over for a while when they finish work, organise an extra pair of hands to help with an older child or to hold bub for a while so you can get out for a walk. Consider getting takeaway for a night or two to help relieve the pressure by not having to cook.
Even though it can be very difficult when bub is unsettled, try and stay as calm as you can. Your baby will pick up on your stress and this can make it even more difficult for them to settle. But you’re only human, so trying your best is all you can do, and that’s always enough.
As always, if you are worried about bub’s unsettled behaviour, or think they may be suffering with silent reflux, always speak to your GP or Paediatrician.