Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Witching Hour

You've had a long day of feeding, burping, wearing spit up, singing nursery rhymes, feeding, burping, bouncing, walking, feeding, burping, etc.  It's 5:00 pm and you are just waiting for your sweetie pie to walk through that door. 

And then it starts.  The fussing and the crying.  Maybe even some screaming.  It's the Witching Hour.

Before you know it, your sweetie pie has called to say he'll be late and you and the baby are both sobbing.  And that's usually when you also realize you haven't even brushed your teeth yet.  Never mind had a shower.

Does the so-called Witching Hour exist?  It sure does!  Is there anything you can do to help your baby avoid The Witching Hour?  There sure is!

The Witching Hour is simply your baby's reaction to a long day of stimulation.   Remember, this baby just spent nine months in your womb.  Being here on the "outside" is like Disneyworld to him or her, even if you never left the first floor of your house. 

When my clients ask about the Witching Hour, I always tell them that babies are like computers.  And sometimes you just have to re-boot.

When I say "re-boot", what I really mean is try to recreate the womb.  Allow your baby to relax in a womb-like setting to counteract the stimulation from the day and let you both relax.

Steps for recreating the womb:

1.  Dim the lights
2.  Turn off the tv, music and the ringer on your phone
3.  Swaddle the baby up
4.  Depending on the level of fussiness either sit down and snuggle the baby, holding him or her really close to you with his ear resting right next to your mouth.  Whisper and/or sing softly to your baby.  Or, if the baby is really worked up, start to bounce/pace/swing your baby while "shushing" in his or her ear.

These steps will help the baby to feel safe and make it easier for him/her to calm down.

Tips for avoiding the Witching Hour:

1.  Allow your baby to sleep as much as s/he can during the day.  Babies need LOTS of sleep.  This helps them avoid that over-tired, over-stimulated state.
2.  Keep your daily activities to a minimum.  Both you and the baby need to rest and take it easy.
3.  Watch your baby's cues.  If s/he is slowing down and not really focusing on anything, give him or her a break.  The baby is probably ready for a nap.
4.  Limit visitors.  I know it's hard because you want to show your baby off and the whole world wants to come see him/her.  But long days of visitors can wear both you and the baby out.

Two VERY important things to keep in mind while dealing with the Witching Hour.

1.  When your baby is upset, s/he learns that you will be there to comfort him or her.  This is an important thing for them to learn - that they can trust you.
2.  This is normal.  Find solace in the fact that thousand of other new parents are pacing the halls of their own homes across the globe at this very moment.

When the baby does eventually calm down, reheat that lasagna your neighbor brought over and then call a friend or a postpartum doula to come over the next day and help you get a break.

Darcy Sauers is a certified postpartum doula¸ lactation counselor and the owner of Dover Doula (
www.doverdoula.com) in the Seacoast area.  She is passionately committed to helping new moms find the support, resources and information that they need.  Please do not hesitate to contact Darcy with any questions at darcy@doverdoula.com or 603-988-5945.  For more information on breastfeeding, the postpartum period and local resources and events for new moms, follow her on Facebook