Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
You may have heard of or experienced “The Witching Hour.” It’s the pre-bedtime period when your baby may be upset or fussier for no apparent reason. It’s completely natural and normal and, thankfully, temporary. And, yes, there are ways to manage it without losing your cool.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
- What is the Witching Hour?
- When Does the Witching Hour Happen?
- Why Does the Witching Hour Happen?
- How to Reduce Witching Hour Fussiness
For additional sleep support and helpful insights to reduce pre-bedtime rebellion, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app. Co-created with baby sleep experts and parents, it’s packed with everything you ever wanted to know about your baby’s sleep development and how to help them learn to love sleep for years to come.
What is the Witching Hour?
Often occurring between 5pm-11pm, the witching hour is the name for a period when babies rebel or act out.
When Does the Witching Hour Happen?
The witching hour can start shortly after birth, but most often “strikes” around the three-week mark, peaks around 6-8 weeks, and tapers off by 4-6 months.
Why Does the Witching Hour Happen?
There are a few reasons your baby may rebel or protest during the witching hour:
- Your Baby’s Over-Tired: Being overtired can cause your baby to become fussier. If you’re experiencing this, read up on adjusting naps and nap transitions . That may help, especially at the end of the day.
- Your Baby’s Over-Stimulated: Note the witching hour can start around 5pm, right around the time parents or caretakers return from or log-off from work. This sudden shift in mood and activity can be exciting for children - their parents are home and all theirs! - which can contribute to witching hour fussiness.
- Slower Milk Flow: If you’re breastfeeding, your milk flow may be lower at night. This means your baby may have to work harder to get as much milk, which can be frustrating.
- Your Baby Has Gas: Sometimes gas or indigestion can contribute to witching hour upsets.
- Your Baby’s Having a Growth Spurt: Your baby is growing all the time, and very fast. But there are also periods when they’re growing even faster. Those are around 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months. This can be uncomfortable for your baby and that may result in extra fussiness.
How to Reduce Witching Hour Fussiness:
Advice from parents and sleep experts on thriving through the witching hour:
1. Get Close:
Sometimes simply carrying your baby in a carrier or wrapping them skin-to-skin can help settle them during the witching hour. As parent Naomi P. says, “Baby wearing in a wrap works wonders ---just in the house or for a walk around the neighborhood!” And Rochelle R. agrees that babywearing is a great go-to, but also recommends “going outside or otherwise changing the scenery” to reduce witching hour fussiness. Also, she recommends “lots of deep breaths” - a tip that works in many other parenting scenarios, too!
2. Go Outside:
As Aryn H. said, fresh air and activity outside can relax your baby or help them work off excess energy before settling down for bed. That was Britney S’s experience. We asked her how she dealt with the witching hour; her enthusiastic reply: “Anything outside: The park or playground. A hike, or just the backyard. Rain or shine, it always seems to help in some way.” Plus it helps teach your baby about the world around them.
3. Dance Party!
While pre-bedtime routines should be tranquil and calm, it’s totally cool - and advisable - to work out witching hour energy with an afternoon dance party at home. “Turning on Music-works 100% of the time. Sometimes we have dance parties.” Says Autumn W. “And Art works great too!” The goal is to rechannel their energy.
4. A Warm Bath:
This may already be part of your bedtime routine, and if so, we recommend keeping that rhythm. If it’s not a bath night, though, an extra rub-a-dub in a warm tub can help relax and calm your baby during the witching hour. Madison K. recommends adding some bubbles and coloring to the water to make the witching hour bath a bit more unique/distracting.
5. White Noise or Soothing Noises:
Another bedtime routine staple, noise machines work any time you want to create a tranquil, placid environment for you and your baby. There are also many other “colorful” noises that can help soothe your baby. For more on that topic, read our article on noise machines.
Regardless of how you cope with the witching hour, the key is to help refocus your baby's energies onto something creative, energetic, or tranquil. Fighting the witching hour is an uphill battle. It’s a natural part of your baby’s development and, yes, it will pass. Until then, know that we believe in you!
If you’d like or need additional support helping your baby settle before bed, and stay asleep at night, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ . It’s designed to help babies and caretakers of all ages learn healthy sleep habits that build happier, healthier days for years to come.
“Witching Hour is the Worst – Here’s What You Can Do About It,” Healthline.