The Newborn's Six States of Consciousness

Two researchers, Dr. Peter Wolff of Boston and Professor Heinz Prechtl of the Netherlands, classified patterns of infant behavior into six different states of consciousness according to the baby's degree of wakefulness or sleep:

Once you understand these six patterns of newborn behavior, the mysterious, shifting world of the infant begins to make much more sense. By recognizing the different states and realizing when they occur and what the expected responses are in each, you can get to know your infant and provide most sensitively for her needs. When you respond to her signals, you teach her that her needs will be met -- and that the world is a good and caring place.

Quiet Alert
In this state, which is similar to the attention we see in our friends when they are listening closely to us, babies rarely move. Their eyes are wide open, bright and shiny, and infants often look directly at their mothers' and fathers' faces and eyes. Motor activity is suppressed, and all the baby's energy seems to be channeled into seeing and hearing.

During the first week of life, the normal baby spends about 10 percent of any 24-hour day in this exciting and receptive state.

Active Alert
During this state, the baby is very different. There is frequent movement, her eyes look about and she makes small sounds. The baby’s attention is drawn to many different parts of the room. She shows interest in objects but pays little attention to faces. This state appears before eating or when the baby is fussy.

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