Here is a lesser-known secret about newborn babies…there is such thing as a witching hour, where your normally content babies are fussy and inconsolable. Sounds glorious, right?
A few weeks, let’s say 3-4 weeks, after my twins were born, I distinctly remember one afternoon that was insane. Now, let’s be clear here, there were many memories during that first year that faded into an exhausted blur, but this day, I will not forget.
My husband had gone back to work and well, I was still trying to figure out life at home with two babies. This one afternoon, both babies started to wail inconsolably for an extended period of time. I was able to get each one calm at times, but they wouldn’t stay that way. My mind was blown! They were fed, they had napped, yet they still were screaming at me, for what reason I couldn’t determine. Forty -five minutes into the fiasco I called my mom in tears begging her to come to help me. Within minutes she had things fairly back in order and it was then, that I learned about the witching hour.
What is the Witching Hour?
When you hear about the witching hour, do you automatically think of ghosts and goblins or things you have seen in the movies? Don’t worry, you are not alone. In the world of parenting, the witching hour, also sometimes called the arsenic hour, typically occurs for infants in the late afternoon or early evening. Oftentimes babies will be unsettled, fussy or inconsolable despite being fed, rested, held or comforted in any way. Parents begin seeing this happen around 2-3 weeks of age, with it beginning to subside around 3 to 5 months.
While there isn’t always a rhyme or reason behind witching hour fussiness, it is typically caused by overstimulation or exhaustion. It is painful and challenging as parents when your babies cry and you can’t seem to find a way to comfort them. So what are parents to do when your typically content babies are inconsolable?
Do You Have Case of the Witching Hours or Something Different?
You might not be able to formally diagnose a case of the “witching hours”, but observing your babies typical behavior will help you determine if there may be something else going on. Here a trick:
- If your babies are typically content during the day, easily settled when they are fed and have slept, but then get fussy during those early evening hours, you have a case of the witching hours.
- But, if your babies are typically fussier, struggle to sleep well (atypical of typical newborn sleep), you may have issues with routines or physical discomfort, at which point you might want to evaluate your routines and/or talk with your doctor.
Fast forwarding through those first few months sounds like a good idea, but let me reassure you that time goes by too quickly anyway, so you really don’t want to do that. Instead, use these tips to help manage the challenges that the witching hour brings.
8 Tips to Manage the Witching Hour With Twin Babies:
Much of the reasoning behind the witching hour is mysterious but there are things you can do to manage life and keep the fuss to a minimum.
A routine for a newborn baby doesn’t necessarily follow the clock, but rather an age-appropriate eating and sleeping schedule. The rule of thumb is that sleep begets sleep, which means that a well-rested baby ultimately sleeps better. Be aware of awake windows appropriate for your babies age, know your babies’ sleep cues and put them down to nap before you begin to see signs of overtiredness.
Milk supply can be lower in the late afternoon and early evening due to exhaustion or stress from the day, thus causing fussiness in your babies. Cluster feeding, when your baby nurses every 45 minutes or so for a few times in a row, can help everyone cope with the witching hours. It is actually a very normal part of the breastfeeding journey because it helps establish milk supply and helps urge your body to make more milk. The good news is babies who cluster feed typically sleep longer stretches afterward. That’s a win, right?
Get Outside for Fresh Air:
Everyone feels better when they can get outside. If you’ve tried everything, grab yourself a cup of coffee, throw everyone in the stroller and head outside for an afternoon walk.
Being close to you is a safe, comforting place for your baby, making it a great way to soothe a fussy baby. Babywearing is slightly more challenging with two, but it can be done. If you aren’t comfortable wearing both babies at the same time, alternate your babies, wear one while the other is in the swing, and then switch.
Remember the 5 S’s:
There are 5 tricks to calming a crying baby…all beginning with the letter S. When all else fails, remember the 5 S’s: SHUSHING, SWADDLING, SUCKING, SWAYING or SWINGING, and finally position babies in a SIDE LAYING POSITION.
Have A Back-Up:
Constant fussiness for a number of days can take its toll on any parent, nonetheless exhausted twin parents. If you have family or friends who have offered to help out, ask them to come over in the late afternoon to give you a break or to offer an extra hand and emotional support.
Offer a Pacifier:
Sucking is soothing for babies. If you are struggling to cope with the witching hour and you have tried everything under the moon, don’t be afraid to offer a pacifier.
Head to the Bath:
Soaking in a nice warm bath is relaxing and comforting for everyone. Draw a warm bath for your babies to help everyone calm down during those fussiness afternoons and evenings.
The Witching Hour can be challenging and taxing for twin parents. The cries of your baby are heartbreaking especially when you are struggling to determine why they are crying. We want you to know that this challenging time is typically short-lived. Do what you need to do to soothe your baby and keep yourself sane, this too shall pass mamas!