witching hour

The Witching Hour - What's going on?

The Witching Hour - What's going on?

 As the day draws to a close, many parents find themselves grappling with what is often referred to as the "witching hour." This is the time in the late afternoon or early evening when babies become unusually fussy, making it challenging to navigate the final hours before bedtime. Understanding why this happens and how to manage it can make a world of difference in your family's evening routine.

What is the Witching Hour?

The witching hour refers to a period, typically in the late afternoon or early evening, when babies and toddlers become unusually fussy and difficult to soothe. This behaviour is often due to a combination of overtiredness and overstimulation.

Some experts believe it’s related to newborn babies’ developing nervous systems and the fact that they’re still learning how to self-soothe, which requires the brain to mature (from about 16 weeks onwards). 

Another theory is that the witching hour is related to a baby’s circadian rhythm. As adults, our circadian rhythm helps us regulate our sleep and wake cycles, but this system is still developing in younger babies (set from about 6 months). As a result, they may become overtired and overstimulated in the evening, leading to fussiness and crying.

At what age does the Witching Hour start and stop?

The witching hour can start as early as a few weeks old and typically continues until your baby is around 3-4 months. However, some toddlers might experience similar fussy periods even as they get older, though this is less common.

Does every baby experience the Witching Hour?

No, not every baby, but it is pretty common, keeping in mind that the ‘4th trimester’ is a transitional period for newborns to adjust to the outside world (so much going on your baby is processing!), so it can be pretty overwhelming for everyone involved. Some babies may go through this phase more intensely than others (i.e. colic, reflux), while others might not exhibit these symptoms at all. Each child has a unique temperament and their responses to tiredness and stimulation can be quite different.

Is my baby too old for a Witching Hour?

If your child is beyond the age of 4 months and is still experiencing fussy periods in the evening, it might not be the “traditional witching hour” we are referring too, but rather a sign of overtiredness and/or overstimulation, once evening comes around.

Why do people say some toddlers have a Witching Hour?

It can feel at times like your household has never stopped experiencing the Witching Hour- and your kid(s) might be already off to high-school ;)  Some toddlers and even older children might still experience fussy periods (or full blown tantrums) similar to the witching hour, but we find that this is often due to overtiredness, under tiredness, changes in their routine or there is no particular routine to the evenings at this stage.  As children grow, their sleep needs change, and any disruption/ change in their sleep schedule or environment can lead to increased irritability in the evenings.

Tips to avoid the Witching Hour

Don’t panic- the good news is: there are plenty of strategies we use & recommend here at BSC to lessen the blow of the impact of the witching hour and to create a more peaceful transition when bedtime comes around!

  1. Age-appropriate awake times & amount of daytime sleep

Children have different sleep needs at different ages, and it's important to balance their awake time and daytime sleep. If your child is awake for too long, they become overtired, leading to an increase in cortisol levels. But, if they nap too much during the day, they might not be tired enough at bedtime. It can be quite a balancing act, but practice makes progress and we are here to help to find your child’s sweet spot J

  1. Establish a calming & predictable bedtime routine

A consistent bedtime routine provides reassurance and helps your child's body & mind to transition easier from wakefulness to sleep.

The key is to keep this routine calm and predictable, as this provides reassurance, reduces overstimulation & anxiety, providing a sense of security: children love knowing what’s coming next and expecting/ anticipating the next steps ahead helps as well accepting that this is what’s happening- every single night J

  1. Avoid electronic devices before bedtime

Electronic devices, such as TVs, tablets, and smartphones, can interfere with your child's ability to wind down and the blue light actually interferes with their melatonin production, making it harder for your child to fall asleep. Ideally, screen time should be avoided for at least an hour before bedtime (ideally no screens past 4 pm). Instead (if possible) engage your child in calm activities i.e. reading, drawing, or playing with non-electronic toys.

Will ‘Cry It Out’ solve the Witching Hour?

The "cry it out" method, where a baby is left to cry by themselves (note that there is a difference between CIO and spaced soothing, which allows for reassuring check ins in the room) is a controversial topic and an approach we carefully consider, before using it with any of our families. And while it might work for some families in certain situations, it is generally nothing we recommended as the sole solution for the witching hour, is often a result of overtiredness and overstimulation, which is something we need to address, in order for us to have realistic & fair expectations when it comes to our children’s sleep.

To sum it all up:

The witching hour can be a challenging time for us as parents and our children, but understanding the WHY behind it & implementing the mentioned strategies can make a world of a difference!

By ensuring age-appropriate awake times and naps, establishing a calming bedtime routine, and by avoiding (too much) screen time before bed, you can help your child (and yourself) transition more peaceful into a restful night’s sleep!

Remember, every child is unique, and it may take some time to find the perfect balance for your family. Be patient & kind to yourself and your little one as you navigate the lead up to bedtime in your house: With consistency and a little bit of trial and error, you’ll find a routine that works for you!


Case Study Lola


When I first met Lola and her mum Diane, she was just 3 weeks old (corrected, she was 2 weeks prem). Lola was a very typical newborn, sleeping lots during the day (sometimes up to 4 hours in one go) and during her awake period not doing much more than feeding, having a nappy changed and pretty much falling asleep while being burped.

The challenge wasn’t so much the day sleeps at all, but the evenings & nights, with lots of upset, crying and constant wakings + feeding throughout the night.

Lola was at that stage sleeping in the lounge during the day, mostly unswaddled and with no white noise.

What Diane and her husband Marc where hoping to achieve with my support, was to establish healthy and age appropriate day routine for Lola and knowing how to avoid things falling apart by the end of the day.


The areas we addressed to support Lola’s sleep were:

  • Setting up a supportive sleep environment to make sure that Lola’s body was able to keep napping well as she was getting older (i.e. white noise, darkness, swaddling)
  • Practicing an age appropriate settling approach: we can’t ‘sleep train’ newborns, but we can already practice some less hands on settling (back) to sleep


Apart from looking into where Lola was sleeping and what sleep associations we could introduce, our main changes were to look into the right balance of day vs. night sleep, making sure we were working with Lola’s sleep drive, in order to have realistic expectations when it came to her sleep:

  • I explained why it was important to wake Lola up after 2 hours (2.5 max) of day sleep, not only keeping an eye on her sleep drive, but as well allowing enough time in the day for Lola to eat: Babies are amazing calorie regulators and whatever they don’t drink in the day, they are likely to make up for all night
  • we talked about the age appropriate awake time for Lola of about 60 minutes to avoid over tiredness and to have her easier go to sleep and more settled in the evening


When we had our last call after 2 weeks of support, Marc and Diane were really happy with the improvements! That night they have had their 3 year anniversary dinner at home and were so grateful that they were able to have it while Lola was already asleep, without getting up every few minutes or having Lola still with them in the lounge: they thanked me and said this would have not been possible before starting working with me- this felt great and was exactly one of the reasons why I am doing this job!

Both parents said that the adjusted awake time was the biggest game changer, as Lola is now going easier down for her naps and the evenings are way calmer.

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