Trying to understand what your newborn wants is hard. Newborn babies don’t come with an instruction manual and they don’t have the verbal skills to tell you what they want. In fact the only way they know how to communicate with you is by crying. However, all babies have different stages that they go through while awake and asleep. You can learn how to read the cues and how to know what stage your baby is so that you can make the most of your time together and ensure she is getting the right stimulation and sleep that she needs. During the first month of your baby’s life it can be difficult to know why she is upset and what she needs. Is she hungry? Is she tired? Is she bored? Below is a brief guide to the different states of sleepiness and wakefulness that may take the guesswork out of reading your newborn.
The Sleepiness States
Babies are either awake or asleep. However, there are different stages of sleep. All babies will go through deep and light sleep cycles, usually every forty minutes, during their night time and day time sleeps.
During deep sleep your baby will be unresponsive to noise, to interruptions and usually to feeding as well. While they may startle and even suck, they are pretty much dead to the world. Their eyes will be closed tightly and there will be regular body movement and breathing.
Also called active sleep, babies in the light sleep cycle are more responsive to sound, to light and are much easier to wake. Many babies will wake from a light sleep cycle and have difficulty returning back to deep sleep again. Light sleep is characterized by facial moments, movements of eyes under the lids, irregular breathing and more body activity.
The Transitional State
In addition to the light sleep and deep sleep, baby will experience a drowsy stage in between cycles and as she drifts off to sleep. When she is in this stage she is almost asleep and your goal is to get her to go to sleep rather than wake up. She will have irregular breathing and her eyes may be shut. If they are open they will be glazed and starring. During this stage it is easy to wake the baby up if there is too much noise.
The States of Wakefulness
Awake time is playtime. However, it is also feeding time, bathing time, changing time and relaxing time. So when is the right time for each of these activities?
During the quiet alert phase, a baby will be awake but not overly active. This is the best time sit with her, to change her and to give her a bath. She responds and learns the best in this stage and thus plenty of interaction and cuddles are needed. She will be observant and content with just looking around and taking in her surroundings.
When baby starts to get a little fussy it’s time for a feed and this is usually the case during active alert times. She may be sensitive to stimuli and she may need a change of scenery.
When baby is not content she will most likely cry especially during the newborn stage when she is unable to express her wants and needs any other way. If she is crying it is usually because she is hungry, is overstimulated and tired, is uncomfortable or is in pain. Crying signals a time for a change and is often the time to be put back to sleep.