We know that the witching hour is quite common in newborn babies, and though it is difficult to deal with, it does tend to hit a peak and then start to improve around the 6 – 8 week mark. But did you know that older babies and toddlers can also experience their own version of the witching hour?
Toddlers and older babies can have a period of time, in the late afternoon and early evening, when their behavior declines. For a child under 3 years old their witching hour tends to be around the 4 -5 pm mark, and for a child 3 years old and up the witching hour tends to happen between 5-7 pm.
What does the witching hour look like?
If you are wondering whether your baby or toddler is experiencing the witching hour, consider whether some of these signs are present:
- Easily upset.
- Easily frustrated.
- More tantrums.
- Less able to entertain themselves than normal.
Couple this with the hours mentioned above that are common for the witching hours and you can confirm your suspicions.
How to handle the witching hours.
Check to make sure they don’t have an unmet need.
Just in case the fussy, cranky behavior is coming from things like a dirty diaper, hunger or just the need for some affection. Check to make sure that any of these things are an issue and solve the behavior.
Pop on some music.
I don’t know about you, but music in my house drastically changes the mood of all. I have gorgeous videos of my oldest bopping around to music in Daddy’s lap even at 6 months old and as toddlers and even now (at 6 and 8 years old) putting on songs is a great distraction. They have a little dance, let out some pent up emotion and energy and then they feel a little better.
When babies are feeling cranky, fussy or about to hit meltdown mode during the witching hour, what they need from us is a calm, predictable response. They are telling us that they need our help to feel better because they are having trouble calming themselves down. They need to know we are there for them when they are not feeling like themselves and that they can have lots of hugs and attention to help them manage the influx of overwhelming emotions they might be experiencing.
After a busy day with lots of activity, you might find that your little has gotten to the point of overstimulation. Turn off the TV, dim the lights and put aside all that housework that needs to be done, if possible. Then start to do soothing activities may help decrease the fussiness associated with the witching hour. Start doing things like reading together, a relaxing bath. You could even start your normal bedtime routine a little earlier, which feeds into my next suggestion.
Sometimes when your baby or toddler is showing witching hour signs this can be a signal that they need to go to bed earlier, whether it be just for the day or if they have developed a bit of a sleep debt they need to make up for. Pop them into bed earlier than normal so that they can get more sleep, don’t worry it won’t cause an early wake-up! In fact, it may do the opposite. If you are dealing with consistent, amplified witching hours consider moving bedtime earlier long term. Start with a half-hour earlier and see if that helps improve things.
The witching hour can be a difficult time for parents but with these tips, you can help improve things. I can’t promise you won’t experience a witching hour with your toddler or baby ever again, but at least you’ll know what to do. And if you have a particularly difficult afternoon and evening remember to take some time to relax and decompress after you put all your kids to bed. As parents, we often spend so much time focusing on our kids, but we need to focus on ourselves as well.