The Witching Hour: How to Handle it with Newborn

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The Witching Hour: How to Handle it with Newborn

0-15 weeks

Sep 26, 2022

Have you been struggling with a crying, fussy newborn every evening until close to midnight?

Trying anything to bounce, cuddle, swaddle, feed or walk baby around just trying to get them to stop the tears?

If that at all describes your evening with your newborn, you have likely been experiencing what is called “the witching hour.”

In this video, I am going to share with you how we can try our best to avoid the witching hour and what to do to bring some peace to your evenings with your newborn.

First off, I have been in your shoes when sleep feels hard.

When our oldest was a newborn, our evening hours were AWFUL.

She was screaming, fussy, irritable and it seemed like aboslutley nothing could settle her.

It was a quick google search in a desperate evening when I discovered that this time of day was called the witching hour. While she didn’t have colic, she struggled every evening with this fussiness and irritability.

What is a Witching Hour?

The witching hour is a time when your baby is irritated from about 5:00 PM to almost midnight. It usually lasts longer than an “hour,” despite its name!

This time of day is particularly difficult after you’ve juggled naps and feeds with your newborn all day, but ESPECIALLY when you’re trying to stop the fussiness and crying.

Flashing back to my own experience, Chad and I thought we were doing everything to ease the witching hour, but in reality, we were probably making some things worse!

In this blog post and video, I’m going to share with you three steps that can help to make the witching hour better.

The best news is that you can begin these strategies now so you can improve things sooner!

I need you to know that the witching hour is normal.

Your baby is not broken.
You are not broken.
You are not a bad parent.

The witching hour is very normal. And while there are things we can do to help, we can’t always make it go away completely.

Developmentally, there are a lot of changes happening in their little body—so let’s give them grace.

Step 1: Avoid Overtiredness

The first step to handling the witching hour is to avoid over-tiredness.

This was my number one mistake with my oldest daughter. I remember keeping Ellie awake for hours on end because I thought she didn’t look tired. I truly thought if she was tired she would just close her eyes!

The problem is newborns may not always look tired, but they have a very small awake window that they should be awake for, and then it’s necessary to offer them a nap. (This was the part I was missing!)

For young newborns who are between zero to five weeks old, their awake time may be at shortest 30 minutes to as long as 45 minutes.

If you have a baby that is in that young age range, I want you to make sure that during the day you’re offering a nap every 45 minutes for them.

And yes, that 45 minutes includes the feeding time!

All day long you’ll cycle between 45 minutes to 60 minutes (max) awake time, and then offer a nap. This repeats until their bedtime!

For my daughter, this was her key!

I was keeping her awake for hours at a time. Way beyond what she could handle!

All of this exhaustion led to a lot of tears…for her, and me!

By offering naps regularly throughout the day and honoring awake windows, the evening goes so much smoother!

>> Looking for more information on newborn sleep routines? Grab my Free newborn guide!

Step 2: Avoid Overstimulation

The second step to handling the witching hour is to focus on is limiting the stimulations.

Your baby was in a quiet, serene environment for nine months. After they are born, their world is bright, colorful, and noisy— so it’s very easy for them to become overwhelmed.

As we get towards the evening time, I would consider limiting the sounds and visual stimulations as best we can for your newborn.

If you have older siblings, don’t feel like everyone has to be calm and quiet all evening long!

That may likely cause you to become even MORE frustrated!

Instead, consider baby wearing or taking a stroller walk to minimize the chaos.

Step 3: Start a Bedtime Routine

The third step to conquering the witching hour with your newborn is to implement a bedtime routine with your newborn!

Everybody loves to know what’s expected of them, including your newborn!

A bedtime routine is just a cuing system for your newborn to signal that night sleep is coming – A clear transition from the busyness of the day to the calm of night.

>>> If you are also juggling a toddler or preschooler who needs help with their bedtime routine, check out my ideal bedtime routine for toddlers and preschoolers. 

A great bedtime routine for a newborn could look like this:

THE IDEAL NEWBORN BEDTIME ROUTINE

  • Bath or wash cloth bath (5-7 minutes)

  • Diaper change and lotion

  • Feeding (10-15 minutes)

  • Pajamas

  • Book (1-3 minutes)

  • In Crib

From the start of their life, a bedtime routine for your newborn is incredibly powerful because it teaches them that bath (or a wash cloth), plus the following steps, equal bedtime.

Try this routine, and you may realize after a few nights that the moment your baby hits the bath, their fussiness is reduced!

They know what’s happening and sleep is coming.

Step 4: Ask for Help

When you hold your child in your arms, you simply want to be the everything for them.

That was me.

I wanted to be the one that could stop Ellie’s cries.

I wanted to be the one that would hold her when she was fussy.

I wanted to have it all under control because she was MY baby.

But that wasn’t good for me (or Chad!!).

I was trying to be it all, but also exhausted from waking up all night long. I wasn’t in the right mental space.

If you have a partner, friend, or neighbor who can help, please ask for help.

You need a break.

If you know that the witching hour is coming, and it’s been a day where you just haven’t been able to honor awake windows and things haven’t gone as planned…reach out!

Ask someone to come over and hold the baby.

Go for a walk. Take a nap.

Do something that recharges you.

You’re still a good parent if you baby struggles with the witching hour.

Together, these steps will help create a more peaceful evening and witching hour for everyone.

If you need that mental break, please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone who can help you with that.

You are not a bad parent for needing a little space or help.

You are the right parent for your little one and we all need to have a break sometimes.

If you’re ready to make sleep a thing for you and your newborn, be sure to check out my newborn course HERE so that you and your newborn can begin to look FORWARD to bedtime, together!

 

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