How can I handle my newborns' fussy evenings?
Evenings with newborns are called “the witching hour” as babies often cry inconsolably at this time of day. They may be fussy at the breast or they may cluster feed. They may refuse to sleep, though they look tired. Sometimes, this evening fussiness crosses over into what some doctors call “colic” – the infamous, unexplained phenomenon of a baby crying for 3 hours per day, 3 times a week for more than 3 weeks.
Why Are Babies Fussy in the Evenings?
There are several theories on what causes this evening fussiness. The first scapegoat, of course, is breastfeeding and we often hear people around us saying “baby is not getting enough milk” and then suggestions for offering top feeds begin. However, this is usually not the case. Babies do cluster feed and nurse very frequently. They could be tanking up their little bellies for the night ahead. They could be overstimulated and overtired from the day’s happenings. They may remember mum being active at this time during her pregnancy and want to be held, rocked and nurtured in the same way. Interestingly, anthropologists have found that babies in many traditional societies don’t have colic or evening fussiness. These babies are usually wrapped to their parents all day, nurse several times an hour and sleep on demand.
Here are some ideas on how to soothe baby during the witching hour:
▲ Offer to nurse often
▲ Burp baby and check for gas
▲ Soothe with sound – play music or white noise, shush or hum while walking or rocking
▲ Soothe with rhythmic motion – rock or sway with music or humming.
▲ Wear baby in a sling or carrier
▲ Change the caregiver as babies sometimes respond differently to a new touch and the primary caregiver sometimes just needs a break. This is a great time for daddies to step in and walk, rock or play with babies.
▲ Go outside. Many babies calm down instantly outdoors.
▲ Reduce stimulation by lowering light levels, number of people and noise.
▲ Try a gentle massage or a warm bath, if the baby likes them.
▲ Vary the nursing position or try nursing in motion.
It’s helpful to have a menu of ways in which to soothe the baby. Often, something that worked before stops working and we need to try a new method or even a combination of methods.