Some babies really struggle in the evenings, being restless, difficult to feed, crying, or even having major meltdowns…just when you are at your most tired after caring for them all day.
So you head off to Google or online mum groups and you hear terms like Evening Colic, or The Witching Hour, and that’s what we are going to look at in this blog.
Firstly, the term colic is not a diagnosis of a particular problem, it is a description of a pattern of behaviour…basically it describes a baby that cries excessively for 3 hours or more, 3 or more times a week.
As you can see, it’s a very loose description, and the excessive crying can be caused by any number of things, including hunger, tiredness, wind, reflux, illness, pain, teething, over handling, over stimulation.
It can also be a mix of several of these and its your job as a parent to try and figure out what is wrong and deal with it.
What is Evening Colic ?
This is much the same.
It describes a baby that cries excessively during the evening (usually from around 5 or 6pm through to 10 or 11pm, or even later if you are really unlucky).
It is more common in younger babies, under 5 months, but can go on much longer if the cause is not discovered.
We still have to play detective and figure out what is going on, but in this case, a major factor is usually overtiredness and/or over stimulation, along with hunger.
A baby has to cope with so many new things once they are born including learning how to latch on to bottles or teats, drink and breathe at the same time, they are feeling discomfort and pain from their own insides that they can’t understand or do anything about.
Their senses are bombarded by light, sound, movement, textures, tastes, smells, and all the interaction from people around them.
Their brains are in overdrive trying to process all this and its overwhelming and exhausting which is one of the reasons babies need so much sleep.
Naps help, but what they really need is some deep sleep so their subconscious can get on with trying to make sense of it all, so by the time evening comes they have just had enough.
They are exhausted and stressed, sometimes too stressed to eat or go to sleep so they get frustrated, and the only way they have to express themselves is by screaming
Tips to Help You Cope
Once you understand what is going on, it makes it easier for us to figure out ways to help them, such as
- Try to make sure they get lots of sleep through the day (at least 1 hour of good solid sleep before each feed)
- Make everything calmer in the evenings by turning down lights and music/tv, and getting rid of visitors. Sometimes the best thing is to remove baby to a dark quiet room, and use gentle music or white noise.
- Handle them gently, rock, sway and walk around, and talk or sing to them soothingly.
- Don’t make them wait for a feed. It won’t hurt to bring a feed forwards if it avoids baby getting wound up.
- Make feeding as easy as possible.
*If you are breastfeeding you can try expressing or using formula from a bottle just for this feed.
*If you think your milk supply could be low (very common at this time of day) then try topping baby up with expressed milk or formula to make sure they have a full tummy.
- Wind thoroughly but use gentle, passive positions and movements.
- Swaddle baby so they feel secure, and you can even swaddle them to feed and during winding
- Take turns with your partner if you have one. It is no easy thing dealing with a crying or screaming baby and can easily stress parents so being able to hand them over to someone else whilst you take a break will make a huge difference – don’t both sit there trying to calm baby, take it in turns.
- Warm deep baths where baby can float and relax can really help. Turn lights down low, make bathroom warm, you can even get in there with baby if you think that will help. Candles are lovely if you can do it safely.
- Make bottles a bit warmer than usual.
- If nothing else works then try using a sling if your back is up to it.
Evening colic get better as baby gets older and they become better able to cope with the world, so if its really bad, just do the best you can to help them, and remember that it will end, it’s not forever.
Older babies can also go through temporary patches of evening colic if they are experiencing developmental changes, or if they are teething or starting nursery or during illness, just remember it is an expression of serious ‘end-of-day-itis’ so try and help them as best you can by managing them and removing all the stress factors you can think of.
I hope this has given you some insight into the problem, and some ideas about how to cope with it if you experience evening colic at any time, but if you have any questions or need more help, I’m always happy to help in my free FB group Brilliant Baby Solutions where I hang out every day.