Surviving the witching hour: 14 tips to try

Hannah Webb Photography

By Emma Biggar

The witching hour, arsenic hour, “colic” (or whatever you want to call it) can be a time of great stress and frustration in many households. It appears to commonly occur in the evening, beginning around 5pm, but this can vary greatly from home to home. Our once calm, happy, placid infant or child appears to transform right before our eyes. It can seem like there’s nothing we can do to help or that it’s never going to end. 

We don’t know the exact cause and there are many theories. It can be particularly distressing when we feel stuck and unsure of what to do. No one wants to feel helpless when it comes to looking after our precious babies. Here are some things you can try that have helped many other families.

1. Surrender and accept  

You may begin to notice that this period of being unsettled occurs roughly at the same time each day. If you begin from a place of acceptance that this is going to happen, and surrender yourself to just going with the flow, it can be a lot easier to get on with cuddling them and feeding them until it passes. If we stop fighting what we think “shouldn’t” be happening and just embrace the moment it feels a whole lot less frustrating. It will pass but for now you are needed. 

2. Prepare to have no other commitments during this time 

One of the most frustrating parts of this period is that it often occurs just when we need to be doing something else. We might need to tend to other children, get dinner started or complete paperwork. We don’t have to surrender at the expense of being able to get these things done. You might find it helpful to cook meals in advance so you can spend the time being attentive to your baby or schedule time outside this period to complete the paperwork. 

3. Cluster feed

It’s very common for babies of all ages, particularly young babies, to have periods of time every day where they may request a feed every 20 or 30 minutes. This can last for an hour or even several. This is very common and in the majority of cases completely normal. Sometimes some of the stress can be alleviated for all if you just roll with it and offer the breast on demand. This can be particularly beneficial if you are struggling with supply as removing more milk from the breast helps to increase milk supply. If you begin to experience oversupply you can manage this by using block feeding so that your baby can continue having unrestricted access to the breast. 

4. Bath 

Your baby might feel a little more chilled out in a nice relaxing bath. Or perhaps you might like to have a bath together and spend some time skin-to-skin. You can continue feeding in the bath as an added bonus. Or if the bath isn’t your thing you might enjoy a shower. Those snuggles into your neck while the warm water washes over both of you can be just divine. 

5. Change of scenery 

Have you and your baby been looking at the same four walls all day? Sometimes just going into another room or the backyard can provide a little distraction and a break from the crying. The garage, laundry or a spare room that’s not frequently visited might prove to be interesting to your infant. 

6. Turn the TV off  

Perhaps part of the problem is overstimulation. All the bright lights and noises can become too much for our little ones and limiting them can be helpful. Sometimes even just turning the sound off and switching to subtitles can be helpful enough. 

7. Dim the lights 

Sometimes just turning the TV off isn’t enough. Turning the lights down to a minimum, if not off, can assist your baby to downregulate if they are feeling overstimulated. 

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