Hacks to survive the witching hour with a newborn

It’s almost sundown. Your baby is screaming blue murder, and you’re on the verge of tears yourself. Stress no more; our guide will help create a happy hour for both you and your baby.

Some moms call it ‘suicide hour’; others call it the ‘witching hour’. Whatever you call it, that tail end of the day with a small baby can seem like a marathon slog, when your little one is fractious, you’re running on empty, and there still seems to be so much to fit in before bedtime. So to avoid tears and tiredness, try our action plan.

8:30 am: Prepare for the day ahead

Preparation is the key to stopping end-of-day strife, so prepare as much as you can for the day ahead. While it’s not advisable to prepare formula in advance, bottles can remain sterilised for up to three hours in a microwave steriliser if you keep the lid on. You can also store newly boiled water in a clean Thermos flask, so it’s ready to mix with formula when your baby needs her next feed. Remember to cool it first before letting her drink it.

12:30 pm: Have a break

If you’re stressed out, your baby will be stressed, too. Relaxed and rested moms make for happy little ones (and vice versa) so put your feet up for a little while and recharge those batteries while your baby’s having her lunchtime nap.

2 pm: Keep your routine on track

It’s easy to let your planned routine slip as the day goes on, but try your best to stick to it. Babies love familiarity, so setting meal, nap and bath times every day means you’re less likely to have a tetchy tot on your hands.

4 pm: Start winding down the day

By late afternoon, your baby will start becoming more tired and sensitive. Help her wind down by creating a calm environment to help stop tempers fraying – yours and hers!

Expert tip: The advice from Cry-sis, the UK charity that supports families with demanding babies, is to handle and talk to your baby gently and quietly, and don’t overwhelm her with stimulation. If she does get distressed, try going to a quieter environment.

4:30 pm: Get sling ready

Most babies want to be held constantly at the end of the day, and if you’ve ever tried stirring Bolognese or making up a bottle while toting a baby on your hip, you’ll know how hard this can be. The beauty of slings and baby carriers is that they’re not just for going outside – they’re a great way of having your baby close while being able to use both your hands.

5 pm: Forget the housework

This is not the time to tackle that mountain of ironing or catch up on phone calls, so let the phone take messages and leave the washing-up ‘til later.

5:30: Special time

Here’s how you turn a negative into a positive: the fact that your baby is grouchy means you have to give her one-on-one time to bond and calm her down. This is one of the most rewarding ways you can spend time with your child. You’ll relish this positive time together and it will help calm your baby.

6 pm: Call in reinforcements

If you feel your patience is slipping away, call in the cavalry. A friend or family member, particularly one with experience in dealing with children, is perfect.

6:30 pm: Line yourself up for a treat

Whatever floats your boat – a large slice of chocolate cake, an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, a glass of Chardonnay – just keep that treat in mind for when your little one’s finally in bed.

Good to know: The average healthy baby is likely to cry between one and three hours per day.

Three easy ways to soothe your baby

  1. Babies love motion. From gentle rocking in your arms to a quick trip in the buggy or a ride in the car, the sensation of movement is a great way to calm an upset baby.
  2. Let her feel the love. Bring your face right next to your baby’s, look her in the eye, and give her your biggest smile. She’ll love being able to smell you and feel your closeness.
  3. Try a soothing massage. Make sure your baby’s in a warm room, then gently rub in some baby oil, softly stroking her arms, legs, back, and tummy.


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