When the clock strikes 17:00, you can be sure something is brewing, that is if it hasn’t erupted yet. Yes, the arsenic hour (or hours sometimes), kicks off mid-evening and can be very intense, driving you insane. But what can you do if baby stays unsettled and refuses to calm down?
Often the symptoms of the arsenic hour can start to rear its ugly head at about six weeks of age, and gradually start to decline at around 12 weeks of age.
Determining the cause
First things first, you’ll have to determine the cause of the irritation that baby is experiencing. This can be extremely difficult and could seem to be an impossible task. There can be a number of reasons for all the crying – he could be hungry, lonely, tired or experiencing a stimulus overload.
Hungry: Babies want to feed more frequently in the evenings than during the day. Some moms may even feel that, seeing as baby keeps on wanting for more milk, that they are not producing enough milk. But don’t panic, your breasts are never totally empty. The moment your baby starts feeding, a message is sent to your breasts to produce more milk. Another explanation for baby wanting to feed constantly is that she needs to fill up before spending a longer time asleep during the evening than during the day. You’ll maybe have to feed him very frequently for a couple of hours before he becomes quiet and sleepy.
Lonely: Your baby can feel a disconnect with you (if you are not a stay-at-home mom) or with dad if he’s spent the whole day at work too. Suckling can have a comforting and calming effect on baby, making them reluctant to let go of the breast, or even of the bottle when you’re not breastfeeding. It is imperative that you give your baby extra love and affection, by holding her, speaking in soft tones, etc. Get your partner to join in.
Tired: If you are feeling worn down after a full day’s events, you can just imagine what that little mind and body must feel like – it is hard work to grow and learn.
Stimulation overload: Take it down a few notches. The family can be a bit rowdy in the evenings, but get them to try and keep it down for the sake of baby. Steer clear of bright lights and any other stimulus, like quick movements and dangling, squeaking toys. Retreat to a quiet room with dimmed lights if the family room gets too much.
After experiencing the arsenic hour(s) for weeks on end, you must know by now that it is unavoidable – it is going to happen. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
Take a moment to breathe before you take the bull by the horns. Dr Laura Markham gives some solid advice: “put on some soothing music. Breathe deeply… Think of one nice thing you can do for yourself this evening (a hot bubble bath? Call an old friend? Go to bed early?)… Acknowledge that after the kids go to sleep it is your time, the next few hours are ‘kid time’.”
Finish dinner early, so you can spend more time with baby directly after. The sooner you get to baby, the sooner you can deal with the arsenic hour.