The Witching Hour

brown bear plush toy beside green plant

Bitching hour… more like it !

The witching hour or bitching hour is a term coined by mummies for that ‘time’ in the evening that bubs just fuss, for no reason at all, like they are trying to keep us on our toes, and I’m sorry to say… it’s not an hour .. can be a few ! It’s the time right after the Golden hour, that time that they are happy, gurgling away, being generally gorgeous and you think “oh I got this parenting thing, they are so lovely“. Then they turn! They cry, wriggle, want to be put down or picked up. They are either too hot, too cold, their nappy is slightly wet and annoying, their neckline is soggy and they want it off. They have an air bubble trapped, ( different from trapped wind or sore tummies )  The light is off,  the tv is too loud, the light is on, they want a cuddle, dummy, they don’t want a cuddle or a dummy! I am literally just running through the things my daughter has complained about over the past few weeks and she is 6 months old!   And the frustrating part of it is… what helped yesterday, doesn’t today and what does today, won’t tomorrow.

S.O.P- Standard Operating Procedure

But never fear, there is good news and bad. The good is, it’s completely normal, there are a lot of moments when as a parent you just have to sit back and breathe and repeat two things S.O.P and This Too Shall Pass. Once you know that every baby and parent experiences this situation at some point in the first few months of your combined journey, it takes the pressure off. Trust me just knowing everyone else is going, has gone, or are about to go through it gives you comfort. And something for you to bitch about the next day at your coffee group and sort of collective frustration and exhaustion gives us strength in numbers. I am sure there is a scientific term or a professional one for this phase, I was a nanny for 25 years, and even I don’t know what it is! All I know is sometimes new mums can get a bit apprehensive, as the words colic, reflux, somethings wrong…. get flung around, usually by unhelpfully by in-laws and male partners who are none the wiser.  Trust yourself, if something was wrong, you would feel it.

And that’s the bad news, there is no cure as such to the fussing, it’s a  phase ( you will learn this term well as everything in babies lives are just a phase ) and like the rest of it, they and you just have to get through it.   But don’t despair, there are tricks that you can use.

Covering all the bases

I only put this because sometimes the most obvious things can get overlooked. Children have their likes and dislikes as much as they wants and needs. So checking the holy trinity first – tired, hungry, wet can cancel them out so you can move onto the less apparent causes. I’ve outlined what to look for in the trifecta of parenting 101.

Are they tired?

– tired cry/yawning, are the obvious ones of course, but there are many little clues that your baby will exhibit that help them to communicate to you that they want to rest soon. My daughter rubbed her eyes three times, just touched them gently 15 minutes before she wanted to be put to bed and when I caught that signifier, she would go down awake to settle herself. My daughter liked to go to bed.. on her own as such. I could cuddle her to sleep and did do mummy mattress for many months as we both enjoyed it, but she really took to bedtime and self-settling, she would have a play in her cot them snuggle down.

Are they hungry?

Do they need a nightcap? Do they want a feed or top-up to go down full, some babies and parents don’t want to feed to sleep, they prefer to have a space to digest and go down sleepy rather than asleep. This is something to factor into your thoughts on why they are fussing and frantic when they get milk and wide awake after. Some of the initial hints from your baby that they are running on empty are

– A hungry cry, usually the loud hint is your first sign. You will learn to decipher your child’s cries, wet, hungry, tired, and frustrated. All of which seem to come out in the witching hour and sound the same!

-But there is also an opening and closing of their fists. Rooting around towards you when you’re holding them, sucking their tongues. Your baby has their own set of clues for you to ‘read’ and you will very quickly be able to pick up on them.

Are they wet / dirty?

This can incorporate, are they backed up too? At first, there is no rhyme or reason to their bowel movements but as time passes, a pattern will emerge and they like to relieve themselves almost like clockwork either in the morning or evening. So sometimes they can feel a little backed up and need some help to move things along. I have always used baby massage for this, there are wonderful techniques that physically enable you to move blockages in their gut down to the colon and then( in usually 15 mins from the application ) out. It’s an applied pressure sweeping from left to right under the belly button in circular motions that has the best effect, with an added bicycling the legs and pushing them up to the stomach with a bended knee that is the most effective.

-But sometimes babies just don’t like being wet, even a little bit, nappies both cloth and disposable are great but still, idiosyncrasies can develop early and you might find you’re changing a nappy more frequently to please them rather than its reached its capacity.

-Also babies ‘teeth ‘ from birth. They are born with all their teeth, baby and adult in their jaws and they jostle for position constantly. This can lead to pain and excess saliva that gets swallowed and moves through the gut. Hence Gums, Tums & Bums are connected and the extra acid has to exit somewhere! This ends up burning delicate skin in the most painful places. So your child will be wiggling and grizzling in justifiable discomfort. There are great powders on the market in all pharmacies that neutralize the acid. Plus a healthy slathering of nappy cream and Vaseline combination on the tush stops anything from reaching the skin.

Look for the verbal and non-verbal communications

Our children are learning and teaching us a language right from the get-go. As I said above they have wants and needs but they also have personality and they know instinctively what they like and don’t like. Each child is unique so when you think you have it figured with one, it’s different for the next. But once you find the magic combination for your child and start’ speaking to each other in an intrinsic way without words’ It’s like a missing piece that both of you find a sense of peace and connection in. Here are some ways to pick up the clues that you need to consider.

Could they be overstimulated?

Babies are wee computers always learning, always on when they are awake and sometimes it can be an overload on the senses Maybe too much going on around them. So take it down a notch,

– turn the lights down low,

-tv down low,

-use low voices,

-take them into another room without excessive stressors, ie other siblings/ family members.

Lie on your bed and talk to them in a low sing-song voice. See my book chapter Motherese and how babies react to their mother’s voices. Babies latch on to what and especially who they know, to center themselves. There is NOTHING more familiar than a mother’s smell, the sound of your voice or when being held, your heartbeat, your breathing. The use of white noise (static sounds ) and the now coined term of pink noise ( waves, rainwater, etc ) to help your little one to zone out and decompress from their day is a useful tool in the witching hour.

They could be understimulated?

Have you noticed when your baby goes down to sleep that they sort of wriggle or roll or twitch or shake a leg or something before going over as such? It’s a known fact that this ‘movement ‘ is your wee one getting out the last of their energy reserves so they can rest. So if they seem amped in some way in the time before bed, give them some activities to help them get it all out

– Kicking for them, moving their limbs. A good game is cross patterning which is taking the opposite leg and arm and crossing the centerline of the body. This helps with cognitive brain development and processing what has been learned that day. If not done before, it is a wonderful activity after a bath when they are all relaxed and naked on a fluffy towel.

– Play with them, peek a boo is a good one, teaches depth perception and absence of objects that come back. Either you cover your face or theirs or use their hands to cover their eyes if they are a wee bit older. Wonderful fits of giggles ensue which helps muscles in their whole body to expel lactic acids that have built up and not to mention the endorphins released for both of you. Nothing better than a baby giggle !! This little piggy went to market is also a wonderful game for playtime encompassing touching feet and counting toes. You massage their whole foot, tickling and extending their toes which have shown to have reflexology properties of releasing energies in the body and aiding in relaxation and sleep. Not to mention helps with digestion, teething, growth.

-Tummy time, when your baby is holding their heads up with some manner of control you can incorporate play on the floor. An activity mat with colours and textures are the best, I have found. I have a wee curved pillow in which to prop up their chests and arms and plop them face down over it, encouraging them to raise themselves up and find either yourself or a favourite toy or something that makes a noise be it musical or a crinkly type ( I don’t know why babies love the sound of crinkly paper ! ) Once they get the hang of it, they squirm around like a beached seal, arms and legs going in excitement. It’s a wonderful game to play, where you can start small, a few minutes to extended time on their tummy to when they roll over and then back again. Tummy time can be prolonged at first by you rolling them over from tummy to back and having something to reach for above them. This encourages hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills.

Do they need comfort?

– Sometimes after a long day, they just want their Mum or Dad. This is different from overstimulation as they don’t care about what’s going on around them, they just want you. So make a point of holding them in a way they can see you, feel you, be it your knees under them or nestled into the crook of your arm.

-Get right up close to their face. at the beginning you’re fuzzy, but your shape will become more clear so make sure you are close, so they can ‘see’ you

-Talk to them, eye contact, lots of smiles, make funny faces, touch their cheeks, ears, stroke their hair, boop their nose.

-Interaction, bonding, connection is what they are looking for and that moment they recognize you and smile back or find your face in their gaze is one of the most precious moments in the beginning of parenthood.

Expectations are your friend

Once you get the hang of reading your child, this will lead to the dreaded R-word. And it is your friend !!

Routine. – It can be loose, but babies look to you to help them to know what and when, and where they are doing things. By listening to them and seeing when they want to do things and then reinforcing their choices, you set up a trust system. So have a bath routine, or sit on the couch and watch a certain tv programme, etc. Hold them and walk the house talking to them, humming. Anything that allows them to know what comes next and to settle into a schedule before bedtime.

Once your baby knows that you have ALL the bases covered, you’ve got them, they can tell you anything as such and it will be taken care of, the witching hour becomes less and less as they start to ‘expect’ things to happen. They look forward to bath time, to the sound of Eastenders or time on their mat/tummy time/dinner time with family in the bouncer, etc. Or one on one time with Daddy as he does circuits of the house. This open communication is the basis of all communication between you and your child for their and your whole life. Understanding each other is key in any relationship, they aren’t just your child but a whole fully formed little person. And don’t they know it sometimes.

Familiarity breeds content !!

Familiarity with sound, smell, fuels anticipation even excitement of what’s to come. Which in turn helps them to feel secure and settled. Establishing a plan that is just yours and theirs, even if it encompasses other family members or siblings gives way to the fussing that is the bitching hour and gives you back your family time.

Children are like rivers you can’t stop their flow, you can only divert them! 

Share this post:

Picture of Cee Rainey
Cee Rainey

Related Posts