If you’re a mom reading this post chances are you’re well aware of the fussy, cranky, end-of-day time period that’s often called the “witching hour”. I distinctly remember one of my good friend’s talking about the “witching hour” before I had Piper and very quickly learned just exactly what she was talking about for myself a few days into parenthood! Our “witching hours” have gone through phases over the past two years. For the first few months of Piper’s life the evenings were without a doubt the most stressful and hardest time of day, starting right around 5pm. Not only was she unusually fussy and overtired by this time of day, my own personal anxieties about what lie ahead for the night (would she sleep 2 hours, 4 hours, at all?!?) also started. When my husband had to work evenings it was particularly dreadful. But, we got through it.
As Piper grew this time of day has consistently been challenging but we’ve learned different ways to adapt to it. There’s nothing like the first few weeks and months, but the end of the day is hard for a toddler too. Now that she’s 2, it’s still a fussy time but I no longer dread it, maybe it’s because I’m used to it, know how to handle it or she’s simply just better behaved? Since I’m preparing for bebe #2 I’ve been worrying about the 4-8pm time period– trying to spend some QT time with Piper after school, get dinner ready and both girls ready for bed — and at times I’ll be alone doing all of this.
So I thought I’d share a few tips that worked for me and some that I found with a little research and will definietly be practicing this time around! Most of these are geared towards infants, but I’ve included a few tips for toddlers too.
Don’t set yourself up for disaster by trying to get much of anything accomplished during this time of day. Don’t make plans with friends, try to run errands or whip up a gourmet meal. Be realistic. It’s not the time of day to accept visitors or to try run to the grocery store.
In those first few weeks seek out help from loved ones and friends who you can count on for support — just someone to be around to keep you company, help you get dinner together and relieve you for a few minutes.
Stock up on freezer meals + easy dinner ideas so you don’t have to worry about preparing a meal. When you’re feeding your toddler batch cook meals for the week on Sunday so it’s less prep work.
This is a great time of day to get outside and take a walk with a stroller or by wearing your baby. It will pass time, calm both of you and let you sneak in a little fresh air.
For toddlers, try developing a routine that signals the end of the day is drawing near. Kids this age thrive off of consistent routines. Maybe its an after school snack, special activity or show they are allowed to watch that allows you to steal 20 minutes to get dinner ready.
Have a bag of tricks.
Rock & Play or bouncy seat
Discovery boxes — fill a box or basket with different household items for your child to ‘explore’. I did this all the time for Piper, in the morning too while I was trying to get ready for the day!
Have your child “help” you cook depending on their age and skill level you can give them their own tasks or let them play with pots & pans and wooden spoons while you cook. Piper had a drawer of tupperware in the kitchen she was allowed to play with and it saved me so many nights and allowed me to make us dinner since she always wanted to be held.
Music is huge in our house and can drastically improve Piper’s mood – if she starts getting whiney and fussy putting on of her favorite songs often quickly changes her mood.
Babies feed off of your energy. If you’re stressed and anxious they will be too. Take a deep breath, and try to remain as calm as possible. If it doesn’t bother your baby put on one of your favorite movies or TV shows, a podcast or favorite music to try and distract yourself.
It’s not always ideal, especially if you’re trying to stick with a feeding schedule — or have snacking issues with your toddler, but if it comes down to it feeding may help relieve the fussiness for a bit. Whether its nursing or giving a bottle to your newborn or letting your 1 year old have their beloved puffs while you fix dinner. Often babies will start to cluster feed during this time, too! It’s OK.
Switch it up.
One of my biggest pieces of advice is to TRY NEW THINGS every night. Babies (and toddlers) change their opinions so frequently, what works one night may not work the next – so remember to keep trying. One day your baby may finally LOVE that $200 swing or finally be OK in your Solly wrap. Don’t give up on something because it doesn’t work one night for you.
It’s not you.
It’s really, really easy to think you’re doing something wrong when your infant is going crazy every night for hours – but just remember it’s not you. Most parents go through the exact same thing during this time of the day. You aren’t doing anything wrong.
Remember, this too shall pass.
Above all else, remember this is a phase. It won’t last forever. The longer it goes on, the more equipped you’ll be to handle it. Caring for a fussy toddler or baby after you’ve worked all day (by taking care of said child or for your employer) is hard. You’ll be missing this sweet time period when you’re sassy tween is slamming their bedroom door :)