Every evening at the stroke of seven, Lucy puts on the same show. She dons her black dress, pointy hat, and crooked warty nose and commences shrieking long witchy shrieks. At first you think she’s hungry, so you feed her, but instead of calming down, she hisses at you. You wonder if she wants a cuddle, so you rock her gently. She calms down a bit until she scratches your back with her witch’s long nails. So you feed her again, and this time she spits out green witch’s spit while her face turns red. You go back to rocking . . . until you hear the clock strike twelve eerie chimes.
Lucy’s trick ain’t no treat. Whoever called this the witching hour wasn’t too far from the truth, if not for the fact that it can last way more than an hour. How it happens: At the end of the day, your little witch releases the tension brought on by over-stimulation.
This cycle starts on average two weeks after birth, when Lucy seems to be such a good girl but is in fact merely recovering from her delivery trauma by sleeping most of the time. When she awakens to the world, she receives much more stimulation than she ever had in your belly, and that’s a bit too much for her. At the end of the day, she lets you know by letting it all out. The problem arises when you automatically think she is hungry and feed her. Although she takes the nipple and what comes with it for comfort, she isn’t hungry. Overfeeding causes belly distention and more discomfort. Then you think she wants cuddling, so you rock her, which brings even more stimulation. The cycle continues late into the night, until everyone in the family collapses from exhaustion.
Since the initial problem is over-stimulation, the goal is to reduce it. Once you’ve established that she isn’t hungry and doesn’t need cuddling, allowing her to cry out her frustration is your only way to break the cycle. In brief, let her cry for five or ten minutes. If she falls asleep, you’ve won. If she doesn’t, try again with a little cuddling. If she settles down, you’re good. If not, she hasn’t fully vented her frustration yet. Let her cry another five or ten minutes. Eventually, she’ll get a chance to cool off and fall asleep and dream about the good old in-utero days [See: Colic].
If you handle the witching hour properly, it will actually last less than an hour and will in fact disappear altogether at around two to three months of age, as Lucy acclimates to her new environment. And the little witch will change back into a little princess.