Infant States of Consciousness

These states tell us how the baby is regulating their nervous system in response to internal and external stimuli.

  1. Quiet sleep – deep sleep state, eyes are closed, no movement except minor twitches, regular respiration.
  2. Active sleep – some body movements, REM movements, irregular respiration. Makes up the greatest proportion of newborn sleep.
  3. Drowsy – the eyes are open and close briefly. Transitional state, infants may return to state or waken further. Activity level is variable.
  4. Quiet alert – brightening and widening of eyes, regular respiration, no body movements.
  5. Active alert- Eyes are open, a lot of body activity. Periods of fussiness and irritability, crying episodes lasting less than 15 seconds.
  6. Crying – Sustained crying for more than 15 seconds. Color changes to red, increased motor activity. Crying tells us that the infant’s limits have been reached. Sometimes babies can console themselves and sometimes they will need help from their caregivers.

Optimally we would like to see a baby that can transition between these states with ease.  For an easily irritable baby, our goal might be that they can calm with consolation and, ultimately, comfort themselves.