What is baby witching hour?

The baby witching hour is a period of time in the evening when newborns are particularly fussy, and may cry for hours. Luckily, this is temporary: Crying usually peaks when a baby is between 6 to 8 weeks old and declines by 3 to 4 months old. There are many causes for the baby witching hour, including overstimulation, tiredness, an inability to self-soothe, hunger, and colic. Holding and rocking your baby, playing white noise, and using a pacifier can help soothe your fussy baby.

newborn crying in mom's arms
Photo credit: / Rachaphak

What is the baby witching hour?

The baby witching hour refers to a period of time in the evening – usually between 6 p.m. and midnight – when newborns are notoriously fussy.

Crying is normal: It's your baby's way of telling you that they're hungry, or tired, or simply want to be held. In the first six months, most babies cry for 45 minutes to 2 hours every day, whether they're breastfed or bottle-fed. Crying tends to be most intense at around 6 to 8 weeks and declines by the time a baby is 3 to 4 months old.

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In newborns, fussing and crying often peaks in the evenings. Causes for the baby witching hour may include:

  • Sensitivity to stimulation. A newborn's rapidly growing brain has to process a lot of new information, which takes an incredible amount of energy and attention. After spending the first nine months in the quiet, dark, cozy confines of your womb, all the lights and noise and action on the outside can be overwhelming – especially at the end of a long day.
  • Fatigue and frustration. Newborns haven't yet figured out how to self-soothe and regulate their nervous system to wind down for bedtime. This can lead to fussy periods in the evening hours as they become frustrated with the struggle to fall asleep. Fussing can be a way of seeking comfort from you.
  • Hunger. Babies often want to eat more often in the evenings, leading them to fuss during the witching hour because they want to eat – sometimes as often as every 30 minutes. This cluster feeding may be an attempt to fill up before a night of sleep.
  • Colic. Newborns who cry for at least three hours, three days per week for at least three weeks may have colic. In babies with colic, intense bouts of crying or screaming tend to start for no apparent reason and occur at about the same time every evening. Fussiness may continue even after the crying stops. Colic could be related to gas pains in a baby's underdeveloped digestive system, among other causes.
  • Growth spurts. Fussiness can be a sign of baby growth spurts, which occur when babies are around 2 to 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months old. Breastfeeding babies may fuss in order to cluster feed during these periods of growth, because it helps boost Mom's milk supply to match their greater nutritional needs.

When do babies outgrow the witching hour?

Baby witching hour fussiness and crying usually peaks at 3 hours per day when a baby is between 6 to 8 weeks old. It usually declines to an hour or two by the time they're 3 to 4 months old, although it can sometimes last until a baby is 6 months old.

Tips to handle the baby witching hour

Know that this early period in your baby's life is incredibly challenging – especially since you're not getting enough sleep – but that it will pass. In the meantime, the below tips can help ease crying and soothe fussiness during the baby witching hour. And if you'd like more guidance from a pediatric sleep doctor on how to calm a fussy newborn, check out Baby Sleep 101Opens a new window, our premium class from BabyCenter Courses.

  • Rule out an obvious cause. Try to determine whether your baby is fussy because they're uncomfortable for a reason you can fix. Check for signs of hunger or a dirty diaper, and ensure that they're wearing an appropriate amount of clothing (roughly the same number of layers as you are). Keep regular tabs on your baby's temperature, and call their doctor right away if they have a fever and are under 2 months old.
  • Hold your baby. Often a cuddle is all they really want. You might want to put them in a sling or carrier and walk around, or gently rock them in your arms.
  • Do like the kangaroos. Skin-to-skin contact can be especially soothing for babies.
  • Wrap it up. Swaddle your baby, which reminds them of the womb and helps them feel secure.
  • Turn on white noise. Use an app on your phone or a baby sound machine, or turn on the vacuum cleaner or a hair dryer. White noise reminds babies of the womb.
  • Use music. Sing your baby a favorite lullaby or play soothing tunes or something with a rhythmic beat.
  • Get fresh air. A walk or drive outside may do wonders for both of you.
  • Use a pacifier. As long as you're sure your baby doesn't need to eat, offer them a pacifier or your finger to suck on.
  • Give your baby a massage. Gently rub their belly, or place your full hand on their head and stroke slowly from the forehead to the back of the head. A soothing baby massage can help your little one calm down.
  • Know when to talk to your doctor. If you suspect your baby has colic, talk to their doctor. You may need to avoid certain foods if you're breastfeeding or switch to a hypoallergenic baby formula. If your baby spits up or vomits a lot, they could actually have gastrointestinal reflux (GERD), which sometimes looks like colic.

It's perfectly normal if your baby's crying makes you stressed or frustrated – especially if your baby won't stop crying and you've tried everything.

It's important to take care of yourself. If your baby's crying is getting to you, it's fine to put them in a safe place (like their crib) and let them cry for a bit. Take a few minutes to calm down and call a friend, family member, or parenting hotline like the National Parent Helpline at 1-855-427-2736. Don't hesitate to ask for help from your partner or another loved one, too.

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Shaken baby syndrome often occurs in response to a baby's crying – their caregiver becomes overwhelmed or angry and shakes them violently. Make sure that anyone who cares for your baby knows that if they ever feel close to losing control, they should put your baby someplace safe and step away for a few minutes.

Follow your baby's amazing development

BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

Nationwide Children's. 2021. Calming a Fussy Baby. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Undated. Cluster Feeding and Growth Spurts. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

American Academy of Pediatrics. 2022. Colic Relief Tips for Parents. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

American Academy of Pediatrics. 2022. How to Calm a Fussy Baby: Tips for Parents & Caregivers. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

La Leche League. 2019. Fussy Evenings with a Newborn. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

Mayo Clinic. 2022. Colic. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Growth Spurts & Baby Growth Spurts. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

National Health Service. Undated. Growth and Appetite Spurts in the First Year. a new window [Accessed July 2022]

Colleen de Bellefonds
Colleen de Bellefonds is a freelance health and lifestyle journalist. She's raising her toddler daughter and newborn son with her French husband in Paris.