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Today’s post is all about how you can prepare yourself mentally for this trying time. I’m not really going to use this article to discuss why newborns experience the witching hour, but here are two really good articles that give some really practical advice:
So, you’ve got a precious little bundle of joy and you’re just figuring things out? Maybe you’re finally surviving the newborn phase, or maybe you’re having some troubles with their sleep. You’ve got a pretty good routine going, maybe breastfeeding,Secrets to Achieving Your Breastfeeding Goals or have your bottle washing and formula making routine down. Perhaps you’re pumping ’round the clock. Your little one is a joy to be around– a little challenging, maybe, but you’re doing it! Except during the witching hour.
The Witching Hour(s)
The witching hour seems to be a bit of a misnomer because it can actually happen for HOURS at a time. And after a looooong day with a newborn baby, all you want to do is put your precious babe down for a good night’s sleep and either have some much-deserved mama time or konk out yourself.
The evening fussies are a major bummer for all new parents. They can last for weeks at a time, usually peaking between 6 and 8 weeks of age (Weissbluth- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child). For all second, third, fourth, fifth time parents too! As a part of my Mentally Preparing for… series, today I want to talk a bit about how you can manage (or stumble) your way through the witching hour(s).
I will be honest and say that both of my kids didn’t do too badly for the witching hour (I’ll discuss the why below), we did go through some of it. My first was maybe borderline colicky, but I attribute most of her fussiness to being overtired and me not knowing how to curb it.
On most nights, we didn’t experience any unhinged, long-term crying jags as some parents do, but we did experience a fussier baby, cluster feeding (lots of time in the nursing chair for this mom!), an aversion to being put down to sleep in the crib and several trips up and down the stairs to fetch and console our darlings.
The witching hour was a huge blow to my confidence as a first-time mom, but with my second baby, I was able to mentally prepare each day for some evening fussiness and was able to trudge my way through the witching hour until it finished.
An Ounce of Prevention
As I stated above, we didn’t experience prolonged crying jags or many tear-inducing evenings with either of our kids during the newborn phase. I attribute this mostly to 3 things:
- Preventing overtiredness by using proper wake times and an early bedtime. I do this to an extreme at times… I am the sleep nazi. We have no social life until this kid can stay awake long enough to go places!
- Tapping out and letting my hubby take a shift so I could do a small self-care activity. Even if it was just taking a nap or walking to the mailbox and back with our older daughter.
- Feeding baby on demand. Breast and pumped milk were my preference for baby #1; for #2 he gets boob only as I am too lazy to pump and have no intentions of leaving my husband at home alone to put 2 kids to bed).
These 3 things, of course, haven’t completely stopped the witching hour from occurring, but it definitely has helped calm things down. When we’ve covered the sleep/mom/eat things and our babies are still super unsettled or upset, we know it’s just the witching hour roosting in our home for the evening, NBD.
Mentally Preparing for the Witching Hour Weeks
So here are a few things that have helped me get through those tough weeks with the baby:
First, circle the date of your little one’s 13-week birthday.
This is the end of the fourth trimester, and things will usually get better from then on. You can start to visualize that date and give yourself something to look forward to!
Of course, things are getting incrementally better with each passing week. But for some reason, talking about this date, imagining what our family will be doing by then, etc. has really helped me visualize and remember that this is a short phase.
My little guy will be 13 weeks on May 23. That’s just after the long weekend! The weather will be nice enough for us to play outside! I can start sleep training then (hallelujah!).
Second, plan other time in the day as downtime.
Before baby #2 came along, we had been in the habit of crashing between 7 and 8 when our daughter went to bed. We’d relax, watch tv, go for a run, clean, or whatever because we were kid-free. With baby #2 in the mix, we haven’t been able to experience said-crash after bedtime.
It took a few weeks to get into this groove and realize that, for the next few weeks, I have to adjust my thinking and expectations and take other time during the day to get stuff done.
This has helped immensely with my attitude!
Third, repeat after me: THIS IS TEMPORARY!
I know, this does not provide much solace, especially since you’re reading an article about how to deal with the witching hour. You’re stressed. You’re tired!
It doesn’t feel temporary when the adrenaline from having a newborn has worn off and you’re left wondering, gee, is this my life forever?
I promise you, this time will go by quickly and you will barely remember most of it.
Want to know how I know? Hubby and I can’t really even remember how we coped with #1 during this phase! We’ve been wracking our brains and have concluded that we survived and our brains chose not to remember this short phase.
Fourth, talk about your feelings with your husband.
Unless he is ultra-sensitive and puts himself in your shoes, he really has no idea how much stress you feel.
If you’re the one spending every waking (and most of the sleeping) moments of the day with your baby, you’re likely feeling drained.
It does feel like a big deal when you go to put your baby to bed and they pop their eyes open and begin to bust out of their swaddle before you can even leave the room.
My husband’s not really a touchy-feely guy, but he would validate me each time I’d sit down and open my heart to him. This, for whatever reason, has given me sanity on the hardest of evenings. It also benefits us in that we are not squabbling over how to deal with the baby– it’s brought us closer together.
Fifth, FEEL your feelings (it’s ok, really!)
In dealing with the witching hour with our son, here’s what I’ve felt on some nights:
- really effing angry that this kid won’t sleep
- exhausted to the point of tears
- hopeless- I don’t know how we’ll make it to our sleep training date!
- sad for baby- he seems to be having such a rough time with gas/sleeping/setting/etc.
- worried- does he have colic? Is this amount of gas normal? Does he have reflux? What if he’s sick?
- lonely- I missed putting our daughter to bed and she wanted me to do it tonight
- guilty- I let my daughter watch too much tv/I make my husband do all of the older kid stuff because the baby needs mom right now
- mournful- I miss my free evenings/previous life before baby #2
I’m hoping you didn’t read those and think that I’m a monster. The fact is that I experienced each of these emotions and I felt it was really important to acknowledge them instead of bottling them up or dismissing them.
There seems to be this lie floating around in our society that we should enjoy every minute with our babies–even the difficult minutes. If we don’t feel anything but an all-consuming love for our babies at every minute of the day, we’re bad moms or something.
This, of course, is absolute bullocks. Babies are dang hard. Moms are human. There’s bound to be some negative emotions in there.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day/week/entire newborn phase. You are allowed to feel the emotions you’re experiencing. Acknowledge them. Validate yourself. Intend for tomorrow to be better (after your coffee, of course).
Sixth, find and lean on your support group.
There are awesome online forums (BabyCenter is my place of choice) with moms who are just like you and experiencing some of the same difficulties.
There’s also real-life groups with flesh and blood moms who could even become your BFFs! Think church groups, breastfeeding support groups, community center groups… the list goes on!
As I previously mentioned, I am a sleep nazi, so I have found some support on a baby sleep discussion board in a thread that provides sleep support for babies around my son’s age.
It’s great to commiserate, share tricks, give virtual hugs after bad days, and celebrate big wins. We as humans are hard-wired for community, and parenting was never meant to be done alone. Find your people and run to them! You’ll be glad you did!
So there we have it. Are you experiencing the witching hour currently? How are you coping? Moms of older kids- do you even remember this phase, or did you forget it like I had? Let me know your best tips and encouragements in the comments below 🙂