Your little one communicates through various cues, and it's essential to familiarize yourself with these indicators. By recognizing these signals, you can respond promptly, ensuring your baby feels understood and supported.

Understanding Your Baby’s Signals: Building Connection and Confidence | S2 Ep69

Understanding your baby’s signals can create a completely different parenting experience for you. On this week’s episode of Sense by Meg Faure, I delve into the fascinating subject of why and how to read our babies. As an Occupational Therapist, author, and baby expert, I’m here to share valuable insights to help you navigate the journey of parenthood. Join me as I explore the importance of decoding your baby’s signals and how it can strengthen your bond while boosting your confidence as a parent.

Baby talk

Babies have their own unique language, and deciphering their signals is key to creating a nurturing and supportive environment. By understanding their cues, we can help them feel connected, secure, and heard. But it’s not just about the baby; it benefits parents too. As caregivers, one of the ways we measure our effectiveness is through our ability to soothe and calm our little ones. When we become skilled at reading their signals, we can avoid excessive crying and restlessness, which, in turn, enhances our confidence as effective parents.

So, let’s dive into the world of understanding baby signals.

The 6 Infant Stages

To help you along this journey, I want to introduce you to the concept of the six infant states, a theory developed by T. Berry Brazelton. These states describe the different stages babies go through in cycles every day, offering valuable insights into their needs and behaviours.

The Deep Sleep State is when your baby is completely relaxed, sleeping soundly without much movement.Deep Sleep State

First up is the Deep Sleep State, also known as “quiet sleep.” This is when your baby is completely relaxed, sleeping soundly without much movement. By recognizing this state, you can avoid disrupting their deep sleep, allowing them to recharge and grow.


During the Active Sleep State, your baby may appear to be lightly sleeping, preparing for the next phase of wakefulness.Active Sleep State

Next, we have the Active Sleep State, characterized by rapid eye movements (REM) and occasional facial twitches or body movements. During this state, your baby may appear to be lightly sleeping, preparing for the next phase of wakefulness.


Drowsy StateThe Drowsy State is when your little one starts showing signs of becoming sleepy.

The Drowsy State is when your little one starts showing signs of becoming sleepy. They may be drifting off to sleep, but not quite there yet. This is the perfect time to create a soothing environment and gently guide them into a peaceful slumber.


The Calm Alert State is a great opportunity for interaction and bonding because your baby is receptive to interacting with you.

Calm Alert State

In the Calm Alert or Quiet Alert State, your baby is awake and calmly taking in their surroundings. This is a great opportunity for interaction and bonding, as they are receptive to engaging with you.


The Active Alert State is when your baby is fully awake, alert, and actively exploring their environment.Active Alert State

The Active Alert State is when your baby is fully awake, alert, and actively exploring their environment. During this state, they are more sensitive to stimuli, so it’s important to provide appropriate stimulation to keep them engaged and interested.


The Crying State is when your baby communicates their needs, discomfort, or frustration through crying. Crying State

Lastly, we come to the Crying State. This is when your baby communicates their needs, discomfort, or frustration through crying. Understanding the reasons behind their cries and responding with care and comfort is crucial during this state.


By familiarizing yourself with these six infant states, you gain valuable insights into what signals to look for and how to respond appropriately.

Parent with sense

Remember, understanding your baby’s signals is a journey that takes time and practice. By nurturing this connection, you’ll create a strong bond and foster a calm and loving environment for your little one to thrive. For more information about your baby’s state and signals, get a copy of my book, Baby Sense or download Parent Sense.

Parent Sense will help you to recognise your baby’s signals and get them into a predictable schedule using the Responsive Routine feature. It’s the easiest way to read your baby and know what they need next. Listen to the podcast for more and stay tuned for more episodes of Sense by Meg Faure where we’ll continue exploring the wonderful world of parenting together.

Guests on this show

Episode References and Links:

Web: megfaure.com

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Parent Sense mobile app:
Web: https://parentsense.app/
Download via Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tech.bitcube.parentsense Download via iOS: https://apps.apple.com/za/app/parent-sense-baby-tracker/id1502973851

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Understanding Your Baby’s Signals: Building Connection and Confidence

Meg: Welcome to Sense by Meg Faure. I am Meg Faure. I am your host as we start to explore making sense of the early parenting years. I’m the mom of three. I’m also an Occupational Therapist and I have [00:01:00] been there, done that. I have been through the really rough times, the sleepless nights, the confusion, the insecurity, the lack of confidence in new parents.

And I have also come out the other side and I know that there are simple little things that can really help you to build your confidence with your little one and to parent them so that they really have the most optimal outcomes. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. We’re going to be talking about reading your baby’s cues.

And while this doesn’t seem as practically essential as getting your baby to sleep through the night, it is absolutely pivotal to having a well-adjusted human being. And I think potentially it’s one of our most important conversations that we have when we talk about little ones. So as parents, we know that having little ones is super rewarding, but it can be really, really challenging because one of the hard parts is that we really don’t know what they are communicating with us.

Babies are born with all these amazing neurons, but they need to learn and make sense of their world by making connections with those neurons. And of course, that means that it takes [00:02:00] time for them to be able to communicate and speak to us.

And so there’s a very long period of time, for some babies, as long as 18 to 36 months, so anywhere between a year and a half and three years old, before they really are communicating sufficiently that we know what’s going on in their mind. But of course, we don’t wait that long for them to start expressing their words. We start to read their signals a whole lot earlier and being attuned to our little ones, nonverbal cues and their nonverbal signals holds the secret. And of course, their cries as well, and maybe their own individual sounds, and the little rudimentary babbles that they start to make. But essentially a lot of it is around watching their cues and developing the ability to read their cues is central to this. There was some really interesting research that was done on reflective function. Now reflective function is the term that we use for a parent’s ability to read what’s going on for their baby.

So to read the underlying state or to read their signals really well. And this research showed that parents who could read their little [00:03:00] ones signals well, or who had high reflective function actually had little ones who were much better adjusted. And this research indicated a whole lot of positive outcomes like a lower incidence of ADHD, higher senses of self-regulation, lower deviancies and drug addictions later.

So there are a lot of reasons why we do want our little ones to feel read and understood. So that’s really becomes a very central part of our life as parents. So, like I said, at the beginning, in some respects, this is more important than getting your little one to sleep through the night.

It does promote a sense of security for your little one. It helps you to connect deeper with your little one, and it also helps you to meet your baby’s needs. So I think as we kick off, let’s start by having a look at reasons to do this. And, and why is it important that we do read our little one signals effectively?

Well, of course, the very first thing is just to meet their basic needs. I don’t know how many of you have heard of the Dunstan baby language. It came out, oh gosh, many years ago, I think in the mid [00:04:00] 1990s. And I was interviewed on whether or not this methodology of reading baby’s cries was correct.

For instance, I think that the baby Dunstan said that if the baby started their cry with a, with an N with a ne sound, it meant that they were hungry. I can’t remember the rest, but the reality is that babies don’t have universal cries. Babies don’t have like the sound. In starting at the beginning of their cry that means that they are hungry. It doesn’t work like that. Babies cry and their cries are very difficult to differentiate. So one of the first reasons to read their signals is because we want to be able to meet their basic needs. Things like hunger and sleep and comfort.

Sleep as an example, has got very distinct cues associated with it. You don’t have to wait until your baby’s crying to understand that. They start to rub their eyes. They start to get that thousand yard stare. These are very obvious cues. And once you get to know your baby’s cues, you’ll, you’ll know that, that they start to stare kind of at you and the eyes start to droop, or they start to get really niggly and rub their eyes and then you know that they’re getting tired.

So [00:05:00] the first reason why we want to read signals is because we want to then be able to meet our baby’s needs so that they feel safe, secure, and nurtured, obviously. The second reason why we want to read our baby’s cries is because it does help establish emotional wellbeing and emotional connection.

Being able to read your baby’s signals validates for them that they are important as a human being. And the fact that they are validated means that they develop a sense of self, which means that they want to communicate more because they want to get their way. And as frustrating as that is, when our little ones get into the toddler years, being able to assert yourself and be able to know that you’re important to the world is very important.

So for babies, emotional wellbeing, we want parents to be able to reflect their signals. And not just understand what they’re saying on the surface, but also to understand what underlies those signals. So, when a toddler is whiny and irritable and, really is pushing all our buttons and we’ve all been there if we’ve got toddlers. it’s easy to start to respond to the behaviour, like, you know, stop it. You know, [00:06:00] you’ve been naughty. You’re irritating me, whatever it is, you know, on the surface, we can go there. But if you’re a reflective parent, and if you’re reflecting on what’s going on in terms of what’s behind those signals, you are reading that actually my toddler’s tired, you know, that that’s what’s going on behind the signal of irritability, whining, and so on.

And when we do that, we are much more effective parents because we help our toddlers to understand the state that underlies behaviour, which is a very important part of emotional regulation, which comes later. So, for emotional wellbeing, emotional self-regulation, babies and toddlers need to have their signals read for them. So we need to understand what underlies behaviour.

A third reason if, as if you need another reason than those two, is for bonding and attachment. Bonding and attachment is something that establishes itself over the course of the first year of life. It doesn’t happen instantly. Some of you may have felt like you fell in love completely from the day you found out you were pregnant. You saw those two blue lines and you fell in love.

For others of you, it [00:07:00] happened when you felt a baby move or maybe when you saw them for the first time. And for others it was in the process of breastfeeding and stroking and massaging and all of those wonderful caring activities that really release oxytocin.

And yet, for others of you, it might happen as a process that happens over the course of the first year of life. So bonding an attachment is a very, very, individual process, and it’s not the same for everyone. And bonding and attachment, by the way, those two words are of course, the mom and the babies or the parents and the babies response to each other. So parents tend to bond with their babies and babies tend to attach to their parents, but it’s part and parcel of that emotional relationship. And when you are consistently meeting your little one’s needs, you are communicating love and care and support. And so, for bonding an attachment to happen first of all, your baby needs to feel that their signals are recognized, that they are heard, that they are important and that they’re validated. And from the bonding perspective, as a parent, the more you’re getting it right as a parent, the better you feel, the more confident, and of course the more you are able to actually connect with your [00:08:00] little one as well.

So reading on little one’s cues is one of the foundations of, of healthy, emotional and social development for the future. And then of course, there’s communication development, which is potentially the most obvious. So, your baby’s signals are their first very rudimentary attempts at communication, obviously, you know, so for instance, when your little one is overstimulated and they start to look away from you, and this is particularly for really little babies, four or five week old babies will look away when they’re overstimulated, when they don’t want more eye contact is an example, but of course, what they’re doing is they’re giving you a signal. And when you affirm that signal, so you give them a little break and maybe they then come back for more interaction a couple of minutes later, it helps them to understand that actually they can communicate something.

And this of course is much more noticeable in more overt signalling. So for instance, if your six months old starts to point at the door or your eight month old starts to point, that normally happens at around that age. And you look that way and you say, Oh, where’s [00:09:00] daddy? Or they hear the noise of the front door opening and they look in that direction and you go, Oh, is there daddy?

You know, they, they start to recognize that actually when they look in a direction or when they point in a direction, you will actually affirm and know what they thinking about. Now the knowledge of what another human being is thinking about is of course the basis of communication, because if you know that another human being has got a brain and it’s got their own thoughts, then you want to articulate your thoughts to their thoughts.

So your mind to their mind, that’s the foundation of communication. And so if a baby knows that you’re looking out for those signals and that you are connecting with these signals, you are much more likely to have a little one is going to start to talk earlier because they’re going to know, okay, she’s got a mind I can communicate it.

So it starts with just pointing at the fridge to say, I’m thirsty and later on it is, num nums because I’m hungry. And then eventually I would like some supper, you know, so that’s your progression of communication. It starts with early signals. And so when parents observe their baby’s body language, their [00:10:00] facial expressions, their vocalizations, and start to decipher their communication attempts, it validates for babies that actually I’m important and my thoughts can be expressed through communication. And so they start to enhance their communication strategies. And one of the questions I’ve often asked is whether or not there’s any value in doing baby signing with your baby. Well, I think, you know, it’s a mixed bag.

I’m not a hundred percent like everybody must go out and do baby signing, but I can tell you that one of the positives is that when babies start to do it, they start to understand that you’re watching for these signals and that you’re interpreting them. So it doesn’t inhibit them from speaking, which was one of the questions that I often get asked is if a baby signing, surely they won’t speak. It doesn’t inhibit them. It pushes them towards speaking because they know that communication is a strategy to get their way and to get what they want.

Another reason why reading a baby signals is so important is because it does reduce stress and helps you to feel more confident as a parent. And, you know, one of the most important aspects and one, I guess one of the [00:11:00] reasons why I do what I do is to build parental self-confidence.

Most of you will not know that when I wrote Baby Sense with Ann Richardson going back in gosh, 2001, when we wrote it and then it was published in 2002, long time ago. But when we wrote it, we needed a strap line for this book. And the strap line I wanted was “calm baby, confident parent” because I knew that if I could calm my baby, I would grow in confidence because I wouldn’t feel out of my depth. If I could meet his needs, I would feel good about myself and I would know that I’m meeting his needs and therefore I am an effective parent. So my self-efficacy would go up. And so, reducing parents stress corresponds with increasing their confidence. And having a calm baby is one of the things that can decrease their stress and increase their confidence.

So, really honing in on and knowing that you can actually read your baby’s signals assists you in soothing your baby and therefore developing confidence as a parent. So those [00:12:00] are five key reasons where I really do think that reading a baby signals is something that’s really important for parent and for baby.

But it’s an ongoing and learning process. It doesn’t happen overnight. I mean, it’s a learning process all round. We’re learning to read their signals. We’re learning about the individual personality because every baby is different. And as we do that, they learn that they are validated that they heard and therefore they work a little harder at communicating.

And so it almost becomes a flywheel that once it’s got going, it really works really nicely. And if you know anything about flywheels and we talk about it in business. A flywheel, basically the most effort that you have to put in is in the early part of it because you’re overcoming inertia to get that flywheel moving. And as soon as you’ve overcome inertia, it kind of feeds on itself and it goes and goes and goes. And communication is like that in the early days. It’s hard work. You know, you’ve got to really learn to understand and you’ve got to understand these signals and then later on, you’ve got to understand what their babbles mean.

But as soon as you’ve got it going, it feeds on itself. So as they start to say a [00:13:00] word that is understandable, you know, kind of when they’re 14 months old, then you start to see that language explosion coming.

Right. So, moms, if you don’t know about my app, I’m just going to quickly just pop this in before we go into looking at the how we can read this signal.

So we’ve looked at the why, but I’m going to look at the how, but if you haven’t heard about the Parent Sense app, it’s an incredible app for you to go and have a look at. It’s called Parent Sense. It’s available on the iOS store and on the Android store, the Google Play Store. And it really will help you to read your baby.

There are sections on signals, but it also gives you an idea of a wake time so that you can learn how long they’ve been awake and therefore when they should be going to sleep. And therefore, will start to read their tired signals. So it really is super, super useful. Now we have just recently released a new aspect of the app and that’s called the Responsive Routine.

And that helps you to respond to your baby according to the times of the day and what could be coming up next. So in addition to knowing what your baby [00:14:00] signals are, you’ll know kind of what’s coming up next because of what the Responsive Routine says. And the Responsive Routine is super clever. As you track your baby’s sleeps and feeds, the Responsive Routine will actually change in response to that and suggest the next time for the sleep and feed. So, it really is super useful if you haven’t downloaded the Parent Sense app.


Meg: So [00:15:00] now it’s time to go on to have a look at how we actually understand our baby signals. And before we start to understand how we read them and what do the individual signals mean, I want to just touch on these six states of infancy and T. Barry Brazelton was a paediatrician in the U S. He died a couple of years ago, really incredible man.

And he was one of the people who started to define the six states of infancy. And why am I talking about these states? So these states are going to be what helps you to understand those babies cues, or should I rather say that the cues are layered over the state so you can understand the state. So, let me explain that to you.

Through any 24 hour period, your baby will move through six states of infancy, we call it. And these six states, the one that’s super obvious that you all know about is deep sleep. It’s the state we crave when our little ones are dead asleep, they lie absolutely dead still, they don’t move. They’ve got no fluttering eyelids. They are completely out for the count. And actually when they’re in this deep sleep state, you [00:16:00] can actually pretty much move them around without them waking up.

I can remember learning to understand the state with my firstborn with James. I mean, he would sleep like the dead. I mean, if I had picked him up and once I took him to the clinic sister, we lifted him out of his snug and safe as they were in those days, a little carriers, put him on the scale, weighed him and put him back in his snug and safe and he stayed asleep the whole time because he was in that super deep state of sleep.

Now, not all babies sleep as deeply as that. And certainly my middle child didn’t sleep that deeply. But the deep state of sleep, all babies experience it. It’s a very restorative state of sleep. It’s where the brain is defragging and getting rid of synapses, pruning synapses that are not needed. It’s in a very important state of sleep.

If you only ever have light sleep, you are always going to be in a sleep deficit. The signs that you are going to look for, for your babies being in a deep state of sleep is a lack of movement, lack of eye movement, no twitching in their body. So that’s your first state of, of sleep, which is your deep sleep state.

Now, as your baby rises out of that deep state of [00:17:00] sleep. Or as they go down into that deep state of sleep, they pass through a state called the light sleep of state or light sleep and light sleep is when a lot is going on in the brain.

Your baby tends to be bedding down some memories, learning from the experiences while they were awake. And so you might see some movements. It’s kind of like you see in a dog who’s kind of like barking or whining when he’s having a dream and babies do the same. They have these little dreams where they might actually laugh out loud, or you might get this little smile passing over their face. Or they might just get twitches in their body or their eyelids might flutter or the eyelids might even open slightly.

So that light state of sleep is also very important, deep sleep is important. It’s the state where our babies are bedding down memories, as I said. it’s also the state in which you have to tiptoe around because if your baby’s in the light state of sleep they are likely to wake up. And so you’re going to want to pass by them really, really quietly.

You can’t move your baby when they’re in this light state of sleep. So I often say to parents, you know, if you’ve. Gone to the shops, let’s just say for instance, and your baby’s falling asleep in the car on the way [00:18:00] home and you want to move them to a cot, you won’t be able to do it if they’re in the first 15 minutes of sleep or if they’re in the last 15 minutes of a 45 minute sleep cycle.

So you’ve kind of got this window period within this really deep state, which is around about 15 to 20 minutes into the sleep and then for about the next 15 to 20 minutes. But that light state of sleep, anything will wake your baby. So if you try and move them at that point, they will wake up. In fact, if you stand on a creaky floorboard, they’ll wake up. So that’s the light state of sleep. And you’re looking for little movements of the body and the eyelids to do that.

Now, there are ways to help your baby to transition through the light state of sleep back to the deep state of sleep. An example of that might be swaddling.

So very often when your baby’s in a light state of sleep, they might have a startle moral reflex, which is those reflexes that move your baby’s arms away from midline and they can be quite disconcerting and actually wake your baby. So something like swaddling when your baby does have that little reflex, they come back and they actually don’t have the big body movements.

And so they move against a [00:19:00] resistance, almost like the uterus. And so they actually stay in the light state of sleep and actually progress into the deeper state of sleep rather than coming from light sleep into an awake state. So things like swaddling can help babies navigate that light sleep state.

Another thing is white noise tends to keep babies in a deeper state of sleep. And if your baby is in a light state of sleep, playing white noise is really beneficial. Deep pressure also works well. So for those of you who have babies who go into that light state of sleep and then wake up after 15 minutes, that’s often cause the hypnagogic startlers woken in them.

So that little startle reflex while they’re sleeping has work in them. And so one of the things I recommend there is to actually sit with your baby for those first 15 minutes while they’re in the slight state of sleep with your hand on your baby, giving them deep pressure and helping them to navigate through into a deeper state of sleep.

So that’s your second state that I wanted to talk about and the signals that accompany that now. Just before your baby goes into the light state of sleep, or when they’ve just come out of the light state of sleep, they [00:20:00] come into an awake state that we call drowsy. And the drowsy state is a sleepy state.

It’s often quite obvious eyes are half closed. They get what I call the thousand yard stare where they’re kind of staring off into the distance. You can tell that Just nothing’s going on. They might do very long blinks with their eyes. And as they do that, they then start to kind of settle down into a sleepy state.

Sometimes they might rub their eyes and kind of snuggle into something very often in a drowsy state they’ll posture. So they’ll get themselves into a position like wedged up against the edge of their cot bumpers or snuggle down in your arms or just turn their head in towards your breast if you’re holding them in your arms.

Those are all those drowsy signals that show that they’re actually ready to settle down. Now, quite interestingly, as wonderfully soothing and calming and gentle as the state sounds, it’s often a state that’s a little bit fraught. And by that, I mean that often little ones become quite unsettled when they’re in a drowsy state. They kind of fight sleep.

[00:21:00] So for those of you who’ve experienced that, your little one starts to fight sleep a little bit. You feel like they’re drowsy, that they’re tired, but then before you know it, they’re crying. They actually didn’t navigate down into the light state of sleep. And that’s because state transitions can be challenging.

And it particularly happens for little ones that are around about kind of 10, 12 weeks where they just Battling to navigate back into a sleepy state. And so they might actually have those niggly patches just before they fall asleep. And, sometimes this is where our habits start to arise because as we putting our little ones down, they’d kind of do this little crying and fussing and, and we think, oh my goodness, this is not a good thing.

We better soothe them before they’re in a all out crying howling session, and then I can’t soothe them. And so we pick them up and so we rock them and we maybe feed them and. And before we know it, we’ve actually taught them that they need us in order to go to sleep, that they can’t navigate the drowsy state on their own.

Now, the important sign that you need to give to your baby, and this starts to happen at around 14 weeks is that they can [00:22:00] navigate this, that they can resettle themselves to sleep. And so when you put your little one down and they are in the drowsy state, and I always say, Get your babies drowsy. So pop them in your arms, give them a little cuddle, a little hug.

Maybe they have had their feed and they’re giving you the thousand yard stare and then put them down from about 12 weeks onwards, drowsy, but awake. And then you’ve got to really support them to navigate through that drowsy state into that light sleep state. So that navigation might look like containing them with your hands, just a little hand over the top of their head and another little one patting their bum or holding them still, or just being very quiet in the room, or actually leaving the room and just listening and letting them not cry it out, but just fuss a little bit, because often what happens in that drowsy state is they just doing a little bit of what I call iffing and butting, like, um, um, um, um, you know, kind of negotiating their way through it. And if you allow them to do that, either on their own

or with support, you’re going to find that you have a little one who can transition from an [00:23:00] awake state to sleep state more independently. So those are very important signals to watch out for and not to be scared by them. Don’t fear those drowsy signals and that little bit of fighting sleep because many, many babies do that. And it’s just them navigating them where themselves into that light state of sleep.

Then of course your baby comes out of the drowsy state and they move into what we call the calm alert state. And the calm alert state is a magical state because this is when learning happens. This is when all those synapses are firing.

They are like waiting for stimulation. They’re waiting to form connections. All of the neurotransmitters on high alert for a learning experience. So it’s a very, very special state. And if you are thinking about your baby’s long-term development and how they’re going to succeed in life and how their developmental milestones will be achieved, this is the state you want to watch out for.

So how do you know your baby’s in the calm alert state? Well, they often are very still, so they don’t have all those little movements that you have in the drowsy [00:24:00] or light sleep state. And definitely not in the active alert state. They’re not rubbing their eyes. Their body is actually quite still altogether. So very low body movements is the first indication.

The second thing is that they tend to have a really calm and alert look on their face. So their eyes are open, but not open wide like they’re scared. Their eyes are open. They are focused. They looking for something to look at and very often their mouth is in a little kind of position like slightly open, like really interested at what’s going on around the environment. They are turning towards sounds. They are smiling. They are engaging. They are making eye contact. All of these signals show that your baby is saying, come quickly. I am welcoming you in. I am wanting that interaction. I want to engage with you.

And so if you watch out for that calm alert state, you’re going to end up finding that your little one really does pretty well and starts to really develop nicely. So they will be making [00:25:00] connections for language. They will be making connections for eye movements for their focus muscles of their eyes. They’re going to make connections on the back muscles of their neck. If you’ve got them in tummy time.

Whatever it is, this is the time to engage with your baby. It’s a bonding time. It’s a great time for baby massage which is also incredible for learning and, and so on. It beds down pre maths foundations, if you can even believe it.

That’s a podcast in and of itself, but the point is that we beading down a lot of synapses at this time, we make a lot of connections between brain cells when you’re little ones in the calm alert state. So calm alert state is the magical state. So little reminder, your baby has gone from a deep state of sleep into a light state of sleep with some movements into a drowsy state in which they’re navigating between awake and asleep. And then they’ve got this magical calm alert state.

Now, babies do not stay in the magical calm alert state all the time. And of course, for most of us, when we think about a baby who’s awake, then we think they must be calm and alert. But the [00:26:00] reality is that an awake baby is only calm and alert for a very short period of time in between each sleep.

So if your a newborn baby, if their wait time is 45 minutes between a sleep ending and a sleep starting, which you can go and actually look up on the Parent Sense app. Probably of that 45 minutes, only 10 minutes is in the calm alert state. It’s a short period of time because it’s focused attention. And if any of you listen to self help and productivity podcasts, you’ll probably know that you’ve been told that, you know, you can probably concentrate for 45 minutes to an hour to stretch, and then you’ve got to stand up, stretch your body. Change position, do some exercise, eat something, drink something. And then you can come back for the next state of concentration. And this is similar for babies. They can do 10 minutes at a stretch and then they need a little break.

Now, if you don’t give them a break and stop stimulating them, they will move into the next state, which is the state that we call active alert and the active alert state is a very busy state. Their body is moving fast. It can look like they’re quite [00:27:00] excited and having fun, but before long that active alert state moves into a crying state. So it’s that kind of super active. And we’ve seen that with the, with toddlers where they become like Duracell bunnies, like go, go, go, go, go and then suddenly it’s an all fall down.

So little ones, toddlers and babies tend to become busier and busier in this active alert state. So what are the signs of it? Busy movements. The body is not still. They looking all over the place. Often you will see the whites of their eyes. So their eyes are more than just awake and open. The eyes have got some white around the pupils. And I always look out for that. If your baby’s got white around the pupils on any side around the cornea, you know, that then the active alert state. They’re often start to look away from and avoid things. So if they’re a toddler, they might push a toy away or push a friend away.

If they’re a newborn baby, they might just look away or lose attention. They might actually start to show overt signals like grimacing, like I’m not enjoying this, go away, they might rub the eyes and you know that they’re not tired, but they irritable, [00:28:00] they might rub their ears, they might start sucking their thumb a lot because putting your hands in your mouth is a soothing strategy. So they might try to soothe themselves.

And so in this state, your little one is in a little bit of stress and they are showing you all the signals that actually they need a break. They need a sensory break and that sensory break might be a sleep because it might be time for a sleep if their wake time is finished or it might just be a walk in the garden and something like going out for a walk in the garden with your baby in a carrier facing out towards the trees or facing in towards you while you go for a walk with the dogs, whatever it is, those are all breaks actually. So although you are still doing something with your baby, you can’t switch them off, but you’re not physically stimulating them like really in their face doing stimulation. So this is the state in which we want to be teaching self soothing strategies and helping a little one to recognize the state of overstimulation.

So if you’ve got a toddler and they’re showing active alert signals like they’re getting busier and busier. They’re starting to push their friends. They started to throw [00:29:00] toys. They’re starting to suck on their hands. They’re starting to pick their nose and rub their eyes. And they’re starting to shake their head a lot. You can actually use that opportunity to give them a signal of what’s going on for them. So I can see that you’re getting really tired. I think you might have had enough. And when you start to give those sort of signals to them, it becomes part of their rhetoric and part of their narrative that they can draw on when they are becoming overstimulated.

And then your final state of infancy is of course the crying state. So when your baby has escalated through from calm alert into active alert and you’ve missed all the signals, you’ll end up with a crying baby. And of course the baby will cry for many different reasons. One may be hunger, another may be discomfort or pain. Another one will be tired. And of course, another one is overstimulation. So there’s lots and lots of different reasons why babies cry, but one of them is that they might be overstimulated.

So how do you deal with the overt signal of crying? Well, first of all, you’re going to try and problem solve what’s going on. Is this a [00:30:00] basic need? So could it be that it’s hunger or pain. So you’ll start to look for any reason why that could be in pain. And then of course, hunger, you’ll probably pop down and look at your app and have a look at how long it is since the last feed has passed. And if it’s been a while, it might be time for a feed.

And of course, that happens with toddlers as well, that they need a snack between meals. And so, you know, you give them a little snack out the fridge of something nice and healthy. So you’ll deal with the basic needs.

If it’s over tiredness, and again, you’ll know this because they’ve reached the end of their wake time. You can check that on the Parent Sense app, then you obviously going to settle into sleep. But if it’s overstimulation, you’re going to help them to learn to soothe and to soothe themselves.

So there you have got it. You have got a million reasons why we want to read our baby’s signals. And then I’ve had a look at each of the different states. And what each of them mean and how you can read the signals for those different states. So with that, I’m going to finish off and I’m going to ask you that if you’re enjoying these podcasts, which we offer obviously free of charge, I would like you to [00:31:00] ask your favour. Please would you go and like and rate the podcast on your platform, wherever you are, and then subscribe to the podcast because this will help other moms to find us.

So as we finish off, I’m going to just recap that understanding and interpreting your baby’s signals is really an absolutely vital skill, and it really does empower parents to provide the very best care for their babies and for their little ones. By attuning ourselves to their non verbal signals, like body language, like facial expressions, and different vocalizations, we can certainly start to meet our baby’s needs promptly and promote emotional well being.

And we’ll also strengthen our parent child bond. And create a calm environment, which of course, again, reinforces our parental confidence. So we’ve got this incredible flywheel, this incredible gift that you can give to your baby that will actually spur you on to become more confident as a parent as well.

But just remember that decoding your baby [00:32:00] signals is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. It certainly doesn’t. I’m not for any of us and for each of your new babies, you are going to be a little better than the last time, but they’ve each got a new personality. So it takes time and practice, but the rewards that it bears in terms of deeper connection and confident parenting is completely immeasurable.

So, this is worth spending time on. And I really hope that today you’ve learned a huge amount about first of all, why to to read your baby signals. And secondly, of course, what the different states mean and how you can read those signals for each of those states. If you’re wanting to know more about this, dip into my book, Baby Sense. That’s where this is all taken from. It’s from the chapter on baby state and then the next chapter, which is on baby signals. And that’s the very best place that you can find out a little bit more about this. So with that, we are finishing off and thank you very much for joining us. And I hope you have a fabulous week ahead.

Join me next week. And just remember that you’ve got this.


Meg faure

Meg Faure

Hi, I’m Meg Faure. I am an Occupational Therapist and the founder of Parent Sense. My ‘why’ is to support parents like you and help you to make the most of your parenting journey. Over the last 25 years, I’ve worked with thousands of babies, and I’ve come to understand that what works for fussy babies works just as well for all babies, worldwide.