21 March 2011

The bewitching hour

Most Mums will tell you that something strange happens as the day draws to a close. Their babies and children start to go a bit feral. There is more than the normal crying, fussing and difficulties at this time. I had heard this over and over again from parents before having Layla and was well aware of the time that is often referred to as the bewitching or arsnic hour. In actually fact, while many parents could deal with an hour of difficult behaviour, this fussy period is more like several hours from 4pm onwards until bed time (which could be anytime until late!). I must admit that such an hour rarely is seen in our house. I hear your gasps.......why not, you may say. Let me start by saying that I only have one child at the moment. I know that in homes with multiple children the stress at the end of the day is significantly hightened. From the start I have employed the following tactics to deal with this difficult time of day:
  • By 4pm, everyone in the house is tired and had enough of the day. This includes not just your baby but also you! As such, I try to remove the stress from this time by not having any pressing chores, dinners to prepare or things to do. At this time of day, I am only focused on Layla;
  • It is never too early to start preparing dinner. In order to remove the stress at the end of the day, either start preparing dinner in stages first thing in the morning, try and cook larger meals so that the left overs provide another meal, use a slow cooker so meals cook during the day or ask a friend/family member to cook you dinner;
  • I try not to be home between 4 and 5pm. I find that if we are home, things get stressful. Even from the early days, this was always a good time to go for a walk, go to the park or see friends. With a newborn, this is a good time for you to get out of the house and get some air. The exercise is also good for you before you prepare to go to bed. Often I would be so tired from sleep deprivation but my body was not tired. A brisk walk helped to burn any remaining energy so that when I got into bed, I fell asleep quickly;
  • If the weather makes it difficult to walk with a newborn, I used to cluster feed Layla and carry her in the sling close to me. Sometimes she would sleep and othertimes just chill being held nice and close. The idea of cluster feeding can be intense if your baby normally takes a long time to feed, you find yourself sitting around forever and your boobs are sore from feeding. At the end of the day your milk supply is at its lowest. By feeding your baby and letting him/her sleep at the breast at this time, it is a great bonding time, fills their tummies and relaxes them. Don't worry, babies don't cluster feed for very long in the scheme of things. Just turn on the TV and resign yourself to the fact that nothing is getting done this afternoon. If you have older children, this is a good time to feed your newborn while watching them play at home or in the park;
  • As adults, we all have a bedtime routine. It normally consists of something like dinner, relaxation, shower, teeth brushing, reading and then sleep. While things may differ from day to day, for the most part, we follow this routine as a way of getting ready for sleep. In teaching your baby the difference between day and night, installing the idea of a bedtime routine can never start too early. This routine will be one that your baby will follow for the rest of their lives and is important to instigate early. It is a way of teaching them that each day comes to an end and that this is the time for sleep;
  • The preparation for bed starts early in our house. From newborn it consisted of feed, bath, feed, bed and has now graduated to dinner, breastfeed, bath, bottle, story, bed. I've written on bedtime routine in a previous post;
  • Some people have been surprised at the length of time I dedicate to bedtime but in doing so, I have generally avoided the frustrations and stress associated with bewitching hour/s. The afternoons belong to Layla as we prepare for bed. Considering how much stress is placed on parents when an overtired baby won't settle to sleep at the end of the day, any steps to avoid such stress seemed to me to be worth it.
Right from her first bath, Layla has always loved a warm bath as a precusor to bed
.........soooo relaxing!
 There will always be times when nothing seems to work. You follow the bedtime routine but there are still tears at bedtime. All you can do is to keep going, follow the steps and work towards sleep. You need to be consistent, strong, brave and committed. You know that this baby is overtired and needs to sleep, so you need to just keep going until it happens even if it takes a long time.

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