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The witching hour – evening crying for newborns – advice from other parents

Inspired by a conversation with a friend who has a seven week old son, I recently asked some of the people who regularly read this blog if they had experienced ‘the witching hour’ with their newborn or small babies.

By the witching hour, I mean the sudden, unexplained appearance of prolonged crying, fussing and distress in your baby’s early evening routine. It certainly happened for us. Regular as clockwork for around six weeks, Tibbs would begin twisting and crying when feeding and be very uncomfortable, for around two hours every early evening. It usually ended with a gigantic vomit of boiling hot milk and two damp, emotional parents collapsing onto the sofa under the weight of worry that our baby was in pain and upset.

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It turns out that lots of readers experienced the witching hour, in many different ways. But, there were two common themes, firstly that it does pass within weeks, and secondly, that everybody found their own great way through it by asking advice or just finding something that soothed their baby. It’s a totally normal phase. But a totally confusing one!

Here’s some of the things that have worked for other people, if you are going through it yourself.

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I made this word cloud using the answers that everybody contributed. The bigger the word, the more it was mentioned.

What worked for me personally:

  • Knowing it was going to happen and not trying to organise anything around that time that would land other people in the mixer. You don’t want visitors at this time, or phone calls
  • Knowing that we wouldn’t be having dinner when you normally do, and preparing for that in advance
  • Getting out of the house during the crying, and moving Tibbs around. It was summer, so I used to use the sling and take the dog for a walk. I’d often meet my husband on his journey home from work, so to avoid the stress for us both of him walking into a hot, screamy atmosphere and a tearful wife and child. Then we could all tackle it together!
  • We gave Tibbs Infacol before every feed (it only works if you use it before every feed and it takes about two days to really kick in) and gripe water after every feed to help with her wind. This isn’t always the cause of witching hour crying but it saved us. We tried infant Gaviscon too, but it didn’t do much. My top tip for gripe water is to put it in an Infacol bottle and label it, the pipette makes it easier to administer

What worked for others:

I wish I’d done more skin to skin with my baby during that time. My best tip would just be to know it’s coming, know it’s A Thing and don’t worry that you’re doing something wrong. Ours stopped at 12 weeks when she decided she wanted a 7pm bedtime – Liz

Yes 5-8 ish ( sometimes longer ) literally stuck to the sofa breast feeding on off on off on off. Thank god for Netflix. Ours just got over it on his own, think it lasted for a month or so. Tips – restrict visitors because sometimes it’s stressful when they fuss & comments like “are they feeding AGAIN” are unhelpful, our rule was – I feed the baby and daddy feeds me, which meant my boyfriend sorted dinner out – usually something I could eat one handed with a bowl and fork. – Gemma 

What helped for us is that we realised that she needed to ‘go to bed’! We were trying to keep her in the sitting room with us, TV on, lights etc. It was just a continuation of the day and she needed to wind down and start an evening routine. Once we started putting her to bed in the crib upstairs in the dark and quiet she was much more settled. – Naomi

I ended up just going to bed with him and then feeding lying down so he could just latch on when he wanted. There was also a lot of walking around and jiggling and sling wearing. – Gemma P

..with the twins from six weeks. Between 6.00pm-7.30pm I’d do 20-plus short breast feeds. Literally feed one for 3 mins, put her down, pick the other crying one up, do the same; 2 mins later twin one would be crying again, so I’d repeat, repeat, repeat. After a week of doing this, Matt insisted we tried a dummy as there was no way they were hungry (having had a proper feed before ‘witching hour’) and I think he was probably worried for my sanity. It worked. As soon as they were fractious, I’d pop the dummy in and they’d settle IMMEDIATELY. Stopped with the ‘witching hour’ dummy after about 5 weeks when it seemed to have passed – Francesca at The Parent Social 

Yes, we did with our first – v unsettled and cluster feeding for hours early evening. I think it passed at around three months. What worked = no expectations to move off the sofa, white noise, having food in that was easy for one of us to cook – Gill at Baby on Board

Think most parents go through this and we tried all of the above but eventually our daughter just settled into a routine and seemed to like that, less stimulation defo worked  Tips – being organised with your meals, cook in the day so your not worrying about cooking and settling a baby whilst feeling tired and reaching for the wine! Have less visitors at this time. Remember that your baby is learning to sleep & feed and grow and just as you think you’ve got it sorted they mix it up! Its all just little steps and won’t last forever. Most importantly talk to other parents they will all be going through it or have been through it! – Alice

First one rocked and held, second one realised she was overstimulated and actually wanted to be put in a dark quiet room. Totally diff temperaments – Vicky

We also had this with both…. Constant bfeeding, eating dinner with one hand. It settled down by ten – 12 weeks. My advice is throw visitors out by 4pm and settle down on sofa for a good TV programme and feed them up as much as you can then take in turns with partner (if around) to help settle them and shhhh to sleep!! – Julia

The sling was a God send! Once we worked out that if my husband put him in the sling and walked around the house until he fell asleep (usually about 5 mins!) the witching hours got so much more bearable and we could have supper with a sleeping baby! – Katy

Ah yes, good old cluster feeding! It’s thankfully in the past for me now but as a trained breastfeeding counsellor I would just say to go with it – it happens to most families and is a natural pattern of behaviour for young babies. Think of it as them stocking up for the night ahead! – Jo from Slummy Single Mummy

Yep we had it with our little one starting from 5pm till bedtime I found wearing her in a sling really helped. Cluster feeding still happens for us as she sleeps straight through from 7 till 6 but I just make sure we chill from 5pm onwards and in the bath – Kim

YES! Seem to remember it passing at around 3/4 months but every night at 5/6pm she would be so unsettled – just as I was feeling tired from the day  What worked for us? Ummm I don’t think we cracked it but generally we used white noise apps, moving around while carrying her/rocking her and it helped when we realised it was a ‘thing’ not her being unwell etc. – Alison from Not Another Mummy Blog

With DS1 the witching hour stared around 5pm. I fed the baby while daddy cooked tea & I ate 1 handed. I can’t remember how long it lasted for but it felt like months. We didn’t have a witching hour with DS2 but he was a constant feeder & liked to comfort suck. No advice really, just sit down, relax & go with it – Ceri

Yes we did! Stopped when we discovered colief, finally managed to get her off that (following a fair bit of cranial osteopathy) at about 8 months!! – Anna

And finally, I loved this comment:

 Remember that from 47 years ago. The memory never fades! – Sandra

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. AH! Our second child was awful… from 6/7pm until 10pm every single night. ugh. passed eventually, but was such hard work!

  2. Rachel Rachel

    i think Naomi has totally hit the nail on the head here. We tried cluster feeding, putting her in slings, moving around, shoving infacol down her face. All in the living room with the TV on or outside. Poor sod was just tired and needed to sleep !!!

  3. Thanks for including my comment – it’s a great post! Hopefully it will reassure lots of parents.

  4. I think just knowing it’s normal is a great help instead of feeling like you are the only one going through it! x

  5. Inja Inja

    It is so comforting to read this post. At the moment my 5 weeks old daughter (second child) is having for the past two weeks a fussy period between 5PM and 10 PM. I used to be able to put her to sleep (while carrying her on a baby carrier) for the 4th nap during this period, but I am not able to put her anymore. It worries me that she isn’t able to sleep for 4 to 5 straight hours, despite the fact that we keep her at least calm and avoid excessive crying. I guess I am afraid it will damage her development… My first child cried also a lot from 2nd week of life till 6th,but I was able always to put him to sleep…

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