When my baby was younger, I experienced something ‘strange’. Every day, at around 6 pm, she would start fussing. She’d just get restless and cry herself hoarse.
Unknown to me, what we were experiencing is called the witching hour.
The witching hour was like a hangnail. It drained all life and joy out of my first days of motherhood. I often was on the brink of tears. Exhausted like a donkey in Mwea.
At those time I felt like auctioning her off to the highest bidder. But I was sure none of you wanted a screaming beauty.
So we braved on. Everyday. It was like waiting to visit the dentist. You know what’s coming and you can’t prevent it. I got so used to it that I didn’t even notice when it stopped. But I dreaded it!
What exactly is the witching hour?
The witching hour is basically a time during the day when the baby gets fussy for no obvious reason. It can go on for a couple of hours and it generally starts in the evening.
By evening, the baby is tired. After a long day of paying VAT through used diapers and spoiled ‘Onesies’, the little person is at her tiny toes end.
It starts from around three weeks. Before that, all that the baby knows is to eat, wimp and pee in the bathwater. You don’t want to see a baby poo in the bathwater. Miss T has done that thrice. I’m retching just thinking about it. But motherhood has shown us things. This is not even the worst of them.
Since their nervous system is not fully-fledged, they don’t know what to do with the nasty moods and exhaustion. If they are struggling with colic the situation is even worse. It’s like hitting your pinky finger on the edge of the table. Twice.
They get frustrated with everything and everyone. And then get hysterical.
What to do?
If you haven’t cried even once in your motherhood journey, you’re officially a rock. I know I have. I have cried in the hospital when Miss. Z was admitted. As they were probing her arms looking for veins, I was bawling outside.
I have cried when Mr K travelled leaving me with a 5 weeks old baby and then my CS wound came undone at the right side corner. I’m yet to find something scarier than seeing a hole on your surgery scar. I started planning my funeral.
And I cried because of the witching hour. I’d get so mad and frustrated. It’s like having your tooth extracted and then you get home and find they cooked Chapo.
The baby would cry for more than two hours straight. I kept waiting for her to get hoarse or lose her voice. But it’s like she had a Duracell battery in her chest! She’d scream on and on. One time, a neighbour even knocked on my door to find if I was trying to strangle her.
Had I know that this was ABSOLUTELY NORMAL, I would have relaxed a bit and enjoyed my wimbi porridge.
Here’s how I can help you keep your mind during the witching hour:
- Wash the baby on time
Early afternoon is the best time. It’s still warm outside and the witching hour hasn’t kicked in yet. Get some nice coconut oil or olive oil and give them a good deep tissue massage. She may cry a little during the massage but do it anyway.
Stretch the legs and the hands. Rub her back well and let her muscles relax. She’ll be more rested and less likely to cause a hurricane.
- Keep the baby warm and dry
Always ensure the bay has one extra layer than you are comfortable with. If you live in Mombasa like me and feel like you could comfortably walk naked, dress the baby with only one layer of clothing.
- Practice some Kangaroo mothering
Being close to your skin soothes the baby. Skin to skin contact is like and spontaneous restart of their system.
They are also used to your smell by now. Give them some aromatherapy. Just make sure you have showered and are not using any strong soap and scents.
So, carrying your baby on your body is now called babywearing. Well, wear your baby, mama.
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- Reduce Stimulation
If your baby is over-stimulated, the baby witching hour fussiness will be more. Decrease stimulation by taking the baby to a quieter and darker room.
Take a walk if you live in a safe place and it’s not too cold. The point is to change scenery and sounds. I know it sounds very western, but avoid eye contact with the baby. She’ll think you want to play and not get to sleep.
- Recreate the womb environment
The womb is noisy. With all that digesting, heart beating and blood flowing, it’s bound to be very noisy. Don’t kill all the noise for the baby. It’s confusing for them.
Create some white noise if you can. Swaddle the baby up and rock her gently. Create a familiar environment for her.
It’ll be Over
I know it doesn’t feel like it but even the Witching hour ends. The clock may seem stuck at witching hour o’clock, but your baby will soon be able to regulate their feelings and sleep better.
Create and abide by a bedtime routine. Let the baby sleep when she’s supposed to sleep.
Creating a routine and sticking by it is easier than just sticking a schedule on your fridge door.
Don’t keep the baby awake for long hoping to get better sleep at night. Worn-out babies have trouble falling asleep.
The witching hour may go all the way to the time your baby is a toddler. If a toddler is still struggling with witching hour fussiness, try a different evening routine.
Take a walk, play a game, play hide and seek. Don’t give them too many things to do in the evening. Remember they are already tired, you’ll only succeed in making them crankier.
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