The 'witching hour' is as scary as it sounds to every parent and usually lasts much longer than just sixty minutes.
What is the witching hour ?
It's the act of your newborn who was once calm and nice and the reincarnation of Buddha, losing her or his mind and bawling and shrieking and going blue in the face, tempting you to do the same, everyday, at the same time for a number of days.
It starts any time between two to six weeks and ends around the time they hit the fourth month. Or earlier, if you have accumulated a lot of good karma in your past lives.
Why does it happen?
When you are sure that your child is not hungry or sleepy or irritated because of a wet diaper, the incessant irrational crying makes you question the meaning of life and your own existence and why all this is happening.
The short answer is no one really knows for sure. Scientists and researchers have bandied about a number of reasons from overstimulation to colic to hypersensitivity to adjusting to their external environment and others. But the truth is that they have not been able to give an exact answer why and therefore it is impossible to hit on the perfect solution as well.
My personal theory is that in the first few weeks after birth, the infants understand what a crazy place the world is and they are bawling to get back in.
Or it's some sort of primal birth control method to have a certain amount of spacing between kids.
I mean, two months of pure shrieking baby and you are convinced that you are never creating offspring again! Of course, you might, when all this fades to a distant memory and you and your partner sit around saying things like, "Remember when she was a baby and she cried and cried and we thought we were going insane."
Yes, that happens too.
But that doesn't mean that witching hour doesn't leave parents on the brink of insanity. Because it does.
It makes you question yourself.
It makes you feel heartbroken and terribly helpless.
It makes you want to run and then you feel guilty for wanting to run.
You just want your baby to stop and you are willing to do anything to make it stop.
And all you want is someone to tell you that it will stop.Well, it does stop.
But you don't need to tell me you that.
How many children you know start crying inconsolably without any reason, every day at the same time?
So, yes it stops.
But how do we clutch on to our rapidly disappearing shreds of sanity when the clock ticks its way to witching hour?
We find ways to cope.
And these are the five things that I did with my now four-year-old daughter and currently six-week old son.
Five ways to cope with witching hour
Walk, walk, walk
My daughter was consistent. When the clock ticked 5:30 pm, she would start crying with such intensity that you would be forgiven for calling child services, if you were a neighbor. On and on it went till 11:30 at night. The only thing that made it stop was carrying her and walking with a slight bounce, all around the house. Walk, walk, walk. Stop and put her down before 11:30 am and it would start again.
When she suddenly stopped at 4 months, I actually found myself missing the walking.
When it was my son's turn to climb aboard on the witching hour train, I was ready!
Well, as ready as one can be for 'deafening, go purple in the face' shrieks.
And thus the walking began.
The only change from the first time was my Fitbit! Nowadays in the evening as soon as he becomes 'cray-cray' as my daughters calls it, I strap on my Fitbit, pick him up and start walking. Seeing the number of steps I've done and calories I've burnt is a small consolation prize that makes enduring the period a little easier.
Behold, the strait-jacketed baby gently snoring away!
This is one baby item I wish I had with my daughter. While I did own a sling, I started using it much later. This time with a nudge from my husband, I popped my son into this baby K'tan sling and after the shortest of whimpers, he settled down. I've gotten the same results with my old hot sling and the cradle hold as well. If you've been on the fence about baby wearing, this might be a good opportunity to test your feelings about it. If you don't want invest in a sling or carrier, look up tutorials on ring slings from shawls that help you wrap the baby in pretty much the same way.
There is something about being outside that calms and soothes even the most grizzly babies. While you might wonder why you would want to head out in public to be subject to dirty looks as baby goes ballistic on you, I suggest you try this before you knock it. I recommend a park or open space of some kind, preferably close to home in case baby does not respond and you need to head home.
New sounds - from drrrr to bells
Distraction works if your baby is not crying from hunger, sleep, pain or discomfort.
We discovered this when after a particularly loud bout of crying, my son quieted down when my daughter started jingling an instrument from her music class. The next day my mother and her 'drrrrrr' sounds distracted him into silence and two days ago, it was my daughter and me loudly singing "Jingle Bells" to him. Yes, we are very seasonal like that.
The point is to distract your baby if you find her/him getting worked up to an uncontrollable level.
Anything goes. Your home, your rules!
Long naps in the day
Some studies say that infants launch into their crying fits when they don't get the time to process all that they have seen, heard and experienced through the day . Sleeping helps them do this and the more they sleep during the day, the less intense the crying fits are.
This means doing whatever it takes to prolong their naps when they fall asleep.
For me, this means baby wearing, keeping him on my lap so that I can rock him back to sleep when he gets startled, napping with him on my chest - for as with my daughter, my son too likes sleeping on the bed only at night. At all other times, he as did she require human contact. And while it is inconvenient, do try and remember that it is not forever. Also, would you rather sneak in a nap while the baby naps or sit through a long shrieky uncomfortable hour or two.
Now, while these five things are what works for my baby, it's not really necessary that they work for you. But desperate times call for desperate measures and I urge you to give these methods a shot. As a fellow mother, I know that sleep deprivation is not all fun and games.
But if all else fails and you feel defeated as we often do, there is this one more thing that I do. It doesn't really stop the baby from screaming but it might give you a quick high.
And that is to hold your baby tight and take a long, deep sniff of her or his hair. Let that new baby scent fill you. Before you know it, it's going to turn into sweaty preschooler scent and then manufactured cologne scent.
So, let this maddening phase play through to the next stage. I promise you, it will pass.
If you have tips on how you made it to the other side of witching hour, please share it with us in the comments here or on the The Times of Amma Facebook page!
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Happy parenthood, Ammas :)