Baby cries at night feeding

Why It Happens and What You Can Do

Fussy Baby at Night: Why It Happens and What You Can Do

Medically reviewed by Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN — By Catherine Crider on April 30, 2020

“Waaahhhh! Waaaahhh!” Just the thought of a crying baby can make your blood pressure rise. Nonstop crying is especially stressful for new parents who might not know how to make it stop!

You may have been warned about the dreaded “witching hour” — those late afternoon and early evening hours when your baby just can’t seem to settle down.

For many parents, it seems like the hours stretch on forever. But rest assured, your baby is not the only one who seems unsettled in the evening. Nighttime fussiness is common for babies.

Still new parents want to know: Why is it happening? How long will it last? And perhaps most importantly, how do you get it to stop? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the information you need to survive (and dare we say thrive?) during this challenging time.

The following might be causes your baby is suddenly fussy in the evening:

  • Growth spurt hunger. As your baby goes through phases of intense growth (common growth spurts occur around 2 to 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months), they may be hungry and want to cluster feed.
  • Slower milk letdown. While many moms assume a fussy baby isn’t getting enough to eat, that may not always be the case. Still, your milk composition changes at night, and you may experience a slower milk flow. The change in milk volume might make for a cranky baby.
  • Gas. If your baby is feeling gassy, and they can’t seem to pass it out of their tiny digestive system, they may feel very uncomfortable!
  • Overtired baby. It’s a common misconception that keeping a baby awake longer will make them sleep longer. By the end of the day, if your little one has gone too long without a good nap they’ll be very tired. An overtired baby will have a hard time settling down.
  • Overstimulated baby. A baby’s underdeveloped nervous system is more sensitive to bright lights, sounds, and changes in their environment. For instance, you may notice the light of the TV in a dark room, or maybe the volume alone, makes your baby cry.
  • Colic. While all babies cry, if you find that your baby is crying for three hours or more, for three days a week, for three or more weeks, it’s time to see the doctor! Your pediatrician should do a thorough exam to rule out other conditions.

You may first notice your baby getting a little fussier in the evening hours when they hit 2 to 3 weeks of age. This period will likely correspond with a growth spurt and some increased cluster feeding.

For many babies the peak of evening fussiness occurs around 6 weeks. If you’re reaching that point, hold onto hope that it’s about to get better!

While there is no guaranteed time when babies outgrow the “witching hour,” it often ends around 3 to 4 months of age.

Calming a fussy baby can seem like an intricate dance that you’ll never be able to master. You may find that a technique that works today won’t work tomorrow. Fear not, though. We’ve got you covered with plenty of suggestions to try calming your fussy baby.

  • Wear your baby. Not only does babywearing free up your hands to finish those end-of-day tasks, but being close to your heartbeat is extremely comforting for your little one.
  • Take a walk. Not only can a change of environment be good for your baby, but the rhythm of walking is often a game changer. Bonus: meeting up with another adult to chat as you walk will help you keep your sanity!
  • Reduce stimulation. Turn down the lights, reduce noises, and swaddle your baby to make it easier for their nervous system to calm. Doing so might even convince your baby to take a short cat nap.
  • Give baby a massage. Touch is a great way to relax and bond with your baby. While you could incorporate oils or specific types of touch, massage is still effective when it’s very basic.
  • Start bath time. Water can be extremely soothing for little ones and a great distraction. Even better, you’ll have a clean baby afterwards!
  • Soothe with sound. Ssshhhing, soft music, and white noise can all be effective ways to soothe your little one. Don’t be afraid to experiment playing different types of music and different types of vocalists. You may be surprised by what your baby likes, and it may change from day to day!
  • Vary breastfeeding positions. If your baby is hungry and keeps wanting to feed, try switching up positions. Even simple changes to your position can impact milk flow and your baby’s comfort.

If your baby seems to have gas, you may want to:

  • Spend extra time burping baby. If your baby doesn’t burp after a few minutes of trying, it’s OK to move on and try something else!
  • Bicycle their legs in the air. This technique is also useful if your baby is constipated.
  • Try over-the-counter options. Before you consider gripe water or gas drops, discuss options with your baby’s doctor first.
  • Choose slow-flow bottle nipples. By adjusting the nipple flow, less air may enter your baby’s digestive system with their milk.
  • Change your baby’s formula. Before giving up on a beloved formula brand, you can also consider trying the same formula in a ready-made formula version, which might lead to less gas than the powdered kind.
  • Experiment with your diet. If your breastfed baby is showing signs of gas discomfort and you’ve tried other solutions to no avail, it may be time to consider eliminating certain foods from your diet. (Foods to consider avoiding include dairy products and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli.)

The late afternoon and early evening hours may seem very long if you have a fussy baby. Understanding the potential causes of your baby’s fussiness and trying different methods to soothe your little one will help you get through the witching hour. Remember that this, too, will pass.

Last medically reviewed on April 30, 2020

  • Parenthood
  • Baby
  • 06 Months

Medically reviewed by Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN — By Catherine Crider on April 30, 2020

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The Witching Hour: Fussy Baby at Night

Whether Halloween is around the corner or months away, the witching hour—that chunk of time at night when an otherwise content baby starts fussing incessantly—will undoubtedly haunt many a new mom.

What’s especially scary is that the baby witching hour always seems to coincide with when you’re most tired: It hits when you’re sleeping or just starting to relax after dinner. The good news? If your little ghoul is healthy and doing well otherwise, her witching hour days are numbered—we promise. Read on for tips on how to get through the worst of a fussy baby at night.

In this article:
What is the witching hour?
When is the witching hour?
When do babies grow out of the witching hour?
Tips for dealing with baby witching hour

What Is the Witching Hour?

According to European folklore (and Shakespeare, who wrote about “witching time” in Hamlet), the witching hour was coined for the hour between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. when the Catholic church didn’t have any prayers or services going on—an optimal time for evil spirits to materialize. While the phrase can be used to describe any random span of bad luck, it lends itself really well to newborn babies, older than 3 weeks of age, who get fussy at a certain time of day on a regular basis for seemingly no reason. (Newborns just a couple of weeks old haven’t learned their day/night cycles yet and so aren’t prone to a specific witching hour. )

“From a medical point of view, the idea spans a few different things,” says Andrew Bernstein, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in Evanston, Illinois. It could apply to a baby with colic—defined as a baby, usually 3 to 12 weeks old, who’s thriving but is crying for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week and for at least three weeks. The time of day a colicky baby tends to act up can be referred to as the witching hour.

The witching hour can also apply to “babies that might not have colic but who are fussy in the evenings,” Bernstein says. “They’ve been overstimulated, they don’t know how to settle down [and] they don’t know how to self-soothe, so they need to scream and let it go.” (In other words, they do what we moms want to do at the end of the day.)

When Is the Witching Hour?

There may be some colicky—but otherwise healthy—babies who cry for an extended period of time at any point in the day, but typically the breakdowns happen in the evening after dinner, between 6 p. m. and 10 p.m. That’s when babies are extra tired, but because their nervous system hasn’t fully matured, and they don’t know how to put themselves to sleep, they lose it.

The evening is also when most significant others are coming home from work, and maybe you’re inadvertently keeping baby up so your partner can be with him. Remember that infants are hypersensitive to all the new sounds and activities going on around them—the crying is sometimes a sign that baby just wants to be wrapped up and held close.

Breastfed babies may have an additional reason to cry during the evening witching hour: “Your prolactin levels drop, [so] you’re making less milk,” says Meigan Alexander, a certified lactation consultant and owner of BettyRuth Baby, a new-mom concierge service in Charlotte, North Carolina. When babies want more milk but it’s not coming fast enough, they can get frustrated as the milk release slows down. By crying, “babies are doing what they need to do to get what they need—being upset is a baby’s way of asking [for what they want]; they don’t have another way to express it,” Alexander explains.

When Do Babies Grow Out of the Witching Hour?

There’s not necessarily a specific age when babies grow out of fussing at night, but Bernstein says that after about 2 to 4 months of age, you may have an easier time preventing baby from getting overtired, which, in turn, would eventually ward off the witching hour. At this point, “you can do some sort of sleep training; that’s when babies can start recognizing patterns and start to learn self-soothing,” he says. “At about 6 months old, most babies are happy getting 12 hours of sleep at night without needing a feeding. Part of the witching hour is recognizing that sometimes babies just need to go to sleep around 6 or 8 at night.”

Tips for Dealing with Baby Witching Hour

Once you’ve ruled out any medical conditions that may be causing your baby to cry—a protein allergy or intolerance or baby reflux are two common infant ailments—there are some time-tested ways to soothe a fussy baby at night.

Let baby sleep. Give her the chance to get in as much shut-eye during the day, since an overtired baby has a harder time falling asleep at night.

Take baby to a quiet, dark room. By limiting stimulation when he’s upset, baby will have an easier time calming down. A white noise machine or app may help too.

Re-create the womb. Swaddle baby and sway with or rock him. This will feel familiar and comforting to him.

Snuggle. Skin-to-skin contact lets baby smell you—it’s like aromatherapy for babies!

Nurse baby as much as she wants. Because you’re making milk at a slower pace late in the day, she’ll want to feed for longer before she feels satisfied.

Start—and stick to—a bedtime regimen. You can start with a bath and end with a book or lullaby. Eventually, baby will come to expect the routine and feel calmed by it.

Ask for help. Be gracious to yourself—and baby—and ask for support. “Tag team and make sure you and your partner are taking care of each other and each getting time apart from the baby,” Bernstein says. “One parent can go take a walk while the other deals with [baby for] as long as he or she can handle it.” After all, you’re probably a lot better at calming baby when you’re calm yourself.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

why the baby cries while feeding

While the baby is quite a baby, crying is the only way of his communication with his mother and the outside world. If the baby is restless during feeding, he will let you know that he is uncomfortable. We will analyze what can cause baby crying in such a situation.

Dry milk drink "Baby milk" Valio Baby 3 NutriValio for feeding children over 12 months Read more

As a rule, the causes of a baby’s tears at the breast or bottle with a mixture are physiological, and there may be several of them.

Abdominal pain

Most likely, the child is worried about colic (they can start from 2-4 weeks of age and usually end by 3 months). Unpleasant sensations are associated with the fact that the infant has an insufficiently developed intestinal microflora and it is difficult for the digestive system to cope with the task assigned to it. Children's crying during colic is accompanied by arching the back and pulling the legs to the stomach - the pain from the formation of gases in the intestines is always acute. To alleviate the condition of the crumbs, it is useful for a nursing mother to drink teas with fennel, cumin or anise. If your baby is formula-fed, choose formula carefully. Valio Baby baby food is as close as possible to the composition of breast milk and contains the GOS prebiotic, which is necessary for the health of the child's digestive system. The cause of colic is also the wrong feeding technique and, as a result, the capture of excess air by the baby.



Children under one year old often suffer from otitis media, this is due to the anatomical features of the structure of the nasopharynx in babies in the first months of life. A baby may cry during feeding because swallowing causes a sharp pain in his ears. Very carefully touch the tragus of the baby's auricles - if he cries, then you need to see a doctor.


It is no secret that many neurological disorders are accompanied by headaches. It becomes especially strong when swallowing. If the baby is constantly crying during feeding, be sure to make an appointment with a pediatric neurologist.

Inflammation of the oral mucosa

Crying during feeding may signal that the baby is experiencing discomfort in the mouth or throat. Its cause is most often thrush or pharyngitis. These diseases require treatment under the supervision of a pediatrician.

Lack or excess of breast milk

The lactation of a nursing woman is affected by a considerable number of factors - the psychological state, fatigue, stress, malnutrition and its lack, improper organization of breastfeeding. The baby may cry because he does not have enough milk. Whether the food shortage is really critical is easy to check using the wet diaper method. By the way, the crying of a baby may also indicate that there is too much milk - the stream is too strong and the baby simply chokes.

Unusual taste of breast milk

If a mother ate, for example, something spicy on the eve of feeding, this will certainly affect the taste of milk. The baby, of course, will cry. This cause of children's "grief" is the most easily eliminated - be attentive to your menu and do not upset your beloved baby.

In addition to the reasons described, the reason for children's tears during feeding can be erupting teeth and inflammation of the gums, as well as nasal congestion with allergies and SARS. Be attentive to your baby. If all is well, the baby should not cry while feeding.

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