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Baby’s Witching Hour: How to Soothe Your Baby When Nothing Else Works

Baby’s Witching Hour: How to Soothe Your Baby When Nothing Else Works

If your newborn is crying in the afternoon or evenings and you can’t figure out why they’re upset or how to soothe them, you may be experiencing your baby’s witching hour.

The good news is that it will end, and there are some strategies you can use to soothe them (even if it feels like nothing you try is working).

In this post you’re going to learn these strategies, plus everything else you need to know to get through your baby’s witching hour as quickly and easily as possible.

What is The Witching Hour For Babies?

The witching hour is when your baby starts to get fussy and upset for no apparent reason at about the same time every day. This period of increased fussiness usually occurs in the late afternoon and early evening for most babies.

The witching hour is also often called the period of purple crying. You may also hear people labelling it as ‘colic’.

It often looks like your child is in pain, even though you know they are not. And because there’s no obvious cause for the fussiness or excessive crying, it’s difficult to know how to soothe them.

What’s important to know is that this is a perfectly normal part of your baby’s development. All babies go through the witching hour to some degree. They are not crying because they don’t like you, or because you’re doing anything wrong.

To understand all of the developmental milestones your baby should achieve and when they should be achieving them, click here to download our free Developmental Milestones Checklist.

When Will a Baby’s Witching Hour Usually Start?

The witching hour starts at around two weeks of age for most babies.

It gradually increases in severity until it peaks at six to eight weeks of age.

It will then gradually decrease, and most babies will outgrow the witching hour completely by three to five months of age.

Which leads to the question – how do you soothe your little one during this time?

What Causes The Witching Hour?

We don’t yet understand the cause of these fussy periods and inconsolable crying, though we do know that crying is normal physiological behaviour in young babies.

‘Colic’ is a common term used to describe extremely fussy babies and/or excessive crying. However this is now considered an out-dated term by many professional organizations, including the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.

How to Soothe Your Baby During the Witching Hour

The first step is to exclude possible medical causes for your baby’s crying if you are concerned for any reason that it isn’t just normal development. As always, if you are concerned about your baby’s health, you should seek advice from your pediatrician immediately.

There is no “cure” for the period of purple crying. However, assuming your baby’s cries aren’t caused by an underlying medical condition, there are things you can do to help soothe your crying baby.

These are my top five soothing strategies that help during your the witching hour:

If you’re breastfeeding, allow them to have more frequent feeds during this period of increased fussiness

Sucking is one of the most calming things a baby can do, so offering more frequent feeds will be extremely beneficial when it comes to settling them.

A study by Handlin et. al. found a significant reduction in cortisol (commonly referred to as “the stress hormone”) during breastfeeding. They also found that skin to skin contact contributed to this effect.

Very young babies tend to feed very frequently. You may find that your tends to cluster feed, particularly during the evening hours. For many babies cluster feeding is normal, and allowing them to do so can help soothe a fussy baby.

Consider offering a dummy or a pacifier (even if only during their witching hour)

Letting your baby suck a pacifier is another method you can try to help calm your baby during the witching hour. Like with breastfeeding, sucking a pacifier has a calming effect and can help shorten those crying spells.

If you’d prefer not to use a pacifier, there are alternatives you can use, such as:

  • Offering them your clean finger to suck
  • Helping to position their hands in their mouth to suck them themselves

baby with pacifier during the period of purple crying

Carry your baby in a baby carrier during your baby’s witching hour

witching hour baby carrier

Baby wearing using a baby carrier is another soothing technique that works for many babies. One reason for this is that your baby can hear your heartbeat, which is soothing for them.

A few other reasons why babies find baby wearing soothing are:

  • It lets them see the world differently, which can provide a helpful distraction
  • Having the baby carrier is wrapped around their body helps babies feel secure and contained
  • When you’re walking around with your baby in the baby carrier you’re moving them in an up-and-down motion, which is extremely calming for babies

And because a baby carrier lets you have your two hands free, you still have the ability to deal with your toddler that might be screaming in the background. Or it might enable you to cook dinner, or do any other household chores if needed.

I have heard parents say they are concerned about spoiling their baby by carrying them too much. But you really don’t need to be concerned about spoiling your baby at this age.

Take them for a car ride

baby in car seat for baby's witching hour soothing

If you’re not too stressed with your baby crying and can tolerate a car ride, it might be just what they need to calm down.

The car ride will allow your baby to see things that are passing by outside. These new, interesting sights are a welcome distraction.

The hum of the car is also considered white noise, which is soothing for your baby. Studies have shown that white noise can also help babies fall asleep, which is extremely helpful during those fussy periods.

And the capsule itself gives the baby a sense of security as they are nursed and firmly strapped into the car seat.

Try the ‘flex and hold’ position

The flex and hold position mimics the position your baby would have been in while inside the womb. This familiar position gives them a sense of security and is a great way to comfort them.

Here’s how to put your baby in the flex and hold position:

  • With your baby’s back against your chest, hold them facing upwards. Next, put their hands in their mouth so that they can suck, and then use your other hand to support their legs in a bent (flexed) position.
  • Now you can slowly move your baby up and down by bending your knees.  This vertical motion is extremely calming for babies. Continue to do this for a few minutes to see if this helps settle your little one.

When you use any of these soothing strategies, make sure you continue to use them after your baby has calmed down. Research shows that if you continue to use a soothing strategy after the baby is calm they are less likely to start crying again.

Here’s an example:

If you’re holding your baby and they stop crying, and then you put them straight away on the floor, there’s a chance they will start crying again as soon as you put them down.

But if you continue to hold them for a few more minutes before putting them down they are much more likely to stay calm after being put down.


You’ll know when you’re experiencing your baby’s witching hour when they start to become upset or fussy at around the same time every day for no apparent reason.

It usually starts at 2 weeks of age and most babies outgrow it by 5 months old. The witching hour, or period of purple crying is normal. You’re not doing anything wrong, and it’s simply a part of normal development.

Not all babies are the same, so make sure you try each of the techniques mentioned above to find out what works best for your baby. Your baby may respond well to some of these techniques, while others won’t work for them.

Finally, it’s important to note that if your baby is fussy all the time, not just for a short period during the day, it’s likely not due to the period of purple crying. Constant fussiness may have another underlying cause and you should talk to your doctor in this case just to be sure.

The same applies if your baby is suddenly taking shorter naps, or waking frequently. There may be another reason for this that’s unrelated to the witching hour.

Also remember: If you get frustrated at all by your baby’s crying during the witching hour, simply put your baby down in a safe place and walk out of the room. Take a minute to breathe and calm back down, and then when you’re ready you can come back in and re-engage with your child.

When you’re frustrated or highly stressed it makes it really difficult to apply these strategies and calm your baby down. The witching hour is a challenging time, and it’s ok to pause and take a moment to get yourself into a slightly better emotional state.

And don’t forget to also get your copy of the Developmental Milestones Checklist here before you leave.

Emma Hubbard

Emma Hubbard

Emma Hubbard is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist with over 12 years of clinical experience. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Newcastle. Emma is the founder of Brightest Beginning & writes about all things child development, sleep, feeding, toilet training and more.

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