The Newborn's Six States of Consciousness

Crying
This state, which is one obvious way for infants to communicate, occurs when the baby is hungry, uncomfortable or lonely. When crying, the infant's face is contorted and red, the eyes may be open or tightly closed and the arms and legs move vigorously.

If a baby is hungry, feeding is the obvious response -- though if you have read your baby's earlier cues, such as lip smacking and flowing saliva, your baby will not need to get to the crying stage to let you know she is hungry. Crying is a late cue to be fed.

If a baby is in distress for another reason, such as discomfort or loneliness, many parents instinctively know that they can change his crying state by picking him up, soothing him and putting him to the shoulder. Parents who pick up their crying infants are giving them an opportunity not only to be quietly awake but also to learn about their world by scanning the room.

Originally, researchers thought it was the upright position that soothed the baby. It turns out, however, that it is the movement toward that position, rather than the position itself, that puts the baby into the quiet alert state. If you pick up your infant within a minute and a half of the onset of crying, he will usually stop.

Drowsiness
This state generally occurs while the baby is waking up or falling asleep. The baby may continue to move, sometimes smiling, frowning or pursing her lips. Her eyes can have a dull, glazed appearance and usually do not focus. The eyelids are droopy, and the eyes may roll upward just before closing. On awakening, the baby may make stretching movements, first on one side and then on the other.

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