Colic is when your baby can be restless and upset no matter what you do. Usually, all the things that work to settle your baby at other times aren’t working, and you can have a very unhappy baby on your hands.

Sometimes referred to as the witching hour (which unfortunately can last longer than an hour!), colic tends to start when a baby is a few weeks old. There can be an increase in your baby’s restless behavior during the late afternoon through to the evening, with some experiencing bouts of excessive crying. Often this behavior decreases more and more as your baby gets closer to 4 -5 months of age.

Not all babies experience this behavior, and the jury is still out as to what causes it, but the most likely reasons are:

  • Being overtired
  • Fatigue from the day
  • Lower milk supply
  • Silent reflux

Babies need to process all they have experienced through the day, and sleep helps them recharge from all of these experiences. If your baby hasn’t slept well during the day, or the day has been particularly busy then they may not have been able to recharge as much as they needed to. This means as the day goes on, it gets harder and harder for them to settle well and catch up on their sleep. Unfortunately, the more overtired a baby is, the harder it is for them to sleep, even when they really need to.

Sometimes in the afternoons, milk supply can dip, so if a hungry tired baby is not getting that milk in quick enough, this can contribute to restless behavior.

The good news is that this behavior will not be around forever! The best advice is firstly, stick with your usual settling support for your baby as this familiarity will give them the message that even though they may be feeling a bit irritable and restless, they can depend on you for predictable behavior.

Secondly, get as much support as you can during the “witching hour”, in whatever way works best for you. Have your partner take over for a while when they finish work, ask a helper or relative to help with an older child, or to hold your baby for a while so you can get out for a walk. Consider getting take-out for a night or two to help relieve the pressure by not having to cook.

Even though it can be very difficult when your baby is restless, try and stay as calm as you can. Your baby will pick up on your stress and this can make it even more difficult for them to settle. But you’re only human, so trying your best is all you can do, and that’s always enough. As always, if you are worried about your baby’s restless behavior, or think they may be suffering with silent reflux, always speak to your pediatrician.


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