As a parent, I think it’s safe to say we all desire our children to feel loved and nurtured. So, when your sweet newborn baby won’t calm down in the evenings no matter what you do, it can feel overwhelming, frustrating and heartbreaking.
The Witching Hour: Normal? Yes. Crappy? Also yes.
As a new parent, I didn’t know newborn evening fussiness (also known as “The Witching Hour”) was “normal” and that most babies go through it. Maybe I would have sighed a breath of fresh air if I knew it was common. Or maybe I still would have been stressed, because constant fussiness (or in my case, red-faced, full out screaming) from your beloved baby every evening is hard.
Newborn fussiness tends to start around 2 or 3 weeks old, peaks at 6 weeks and tends to dissipate between 3 and 4 months. If you’re experiencing it, you’re not alone, that’s for sure!
So, what does a tired parent do about newborn evening fussiness?
1. It’s Cluster Feeding Time
If you are a breastfeeding mom, you may be aware that your newborn wants to nurse during this time, a LOT (not all do, but this can be common and normal). Cluster feeding is when you feed your baby more frequently than the rest of the day. If your baby wants to nurse during this time, go for it. Formula-fed babies also get evening fussiness, and may want to eat more during this time, as well. Some say they are “tanking up” for a longer stretch of sleep. Of course, when bottle feeding you want to be careful of overfeeding, so offer the pacifier or your pinky if you think it’s a sucking for comfort need. Don’t forget to burp your little love often, so they don’t get extra gas pain.
I know some parents worry about causing dependence and sleep associations by comfort feeding, however trust me, The Witching Hour is not the time to worry about this. Get through this time loving your baby the way he/she needs to be loved. Studies have shown that when babies are held often and responded to quickly, they cry less overall. So, do what you need to do to get through this time and know that this TOO shall pass.
2. Overtiredness could be a culprit
One problem with The Witching Hour is that many newborn babies have a hard calming down enough to nap in the evenings. If they’re up for hours on end in the evening, they’re likely to get very overtired and have an even harder time sleeping at night. So, do your best to help your little one nap (catnaps CAN help during this time). Ideally, newborn babies sleep every 60-90 minutes (2 hours, TOPS). Whatever it takes to get him to sleep, try, try, try.
Some tips to get your little one to settle down: Wear your baby in a sling or baby carrier (most babies this age LOVE the movement, possibly because it reminds them of the movement in your belly), go for a walk in the stroller or carrier, or bounce on an exercise ball.
3. Limit Overstimulation.
There’s some thought that newborns cry in the evenings because they are tapped out from all they’ve experienced during the day. Just think about all they’re seeing for the first time! The world is an exciting, and overwhelming place. So, do your best to limit stimulation during this time (save visits for another time, UNLESS your visitor is happy to bounce on an exercise ball or pace the living room floor). Oftentimes, evening fussiness coincides with coming home from work, making dinner, doing homework with older children, etc. For this short period of time (though, I know it can feel like a lifetime), it can help to throw dinner in the crockpot in the morning, so you don’t need to worry about it in the evenings. Whatever you can do to make this time period easier, do that (if possible!).
While this time period can be stressful, there are no other cuddles like that from your newborn. Some babies have reflux and colic, on top of evening fussiness, and cry a LOT. But, even years later, those same parents may surprise you and say the newborn stage was still their favorite! Somehow, between all the snuggles, they’ve forgotten all the crying. 😉 So, hang in there parents, you’ll get through this and nature has a great way of erasing our memories of the bad so we only remember the beauty.