Baby Behavior 101 - Understanding Your Baby's Sleep and Cues


I attended a seminar on Baby Behavior 101 with Jane Heinig, PhD, IBCLC and I loved, loved, loved it.  I learned so so much!  

Did you know that your baby has his/her own way of communicating with you?  It's true. Your baby is driven to learn and socialize and he/she will use cues to signal readiness.  I know that being a new parent can be difficult and exhausting but if you learn your baby's cues... I promise life will seem a little easier.  

Your baby is new to everything.  So that means that everywhere your baby is he/she is soaking in all of the smells, sounds, sensations and energies around him/her.  Think of your baby as an extremely sensitive sponge.  And that's why it's incredibly important to have a peaceful, quiet and safe place for your little sponge to recharge.  Try to keep it low key in your home. 


Types of infant cues: 

ENGAGEMENT CUES -  Your baby will use these cues when he/she is ready to interact with you. These take a lot of work for your baby and are very tiring for them. 

  • Obvious - Your baby looks intently at your face.  He/she may root and make feeding sounds.  He/she may smile at you and his/her body movements are smooth, relaxed, and less jerky.   
  • Subtle - Your baby's eyes may be open and their face is relaxed.  He/she may position themselves into a feeding position or raise their head.  He/she will follow voices or faces. 


DISENGAGEMENT CUES - This is when your baby has been over stimulated and needs a break to reboot his/her little brain.  

  • Obvious - When your baby turns away, pushes or arches his/her back.  He/she may start crying, chocking or coughing.  Their fingers may extend and their tiny hands are stiff.  He/she may begin to fall asleep.
  • Subtle - When your baby looks away and their breathing becomes faster.  He/she may begin to yawn, have a glazed look in their eye or grimace.  He/she may bring his/her hand to his ear. 


FEEDING CUES - The easiest to understand.

  • Your baby will turn their head to nurse, smack their lips, make sucking noises and/or put their hand up to their mouth and begin to suck. 

Remember that cues are simplistic and NOT specific so you may have to play detective to figure out what your baby is trying to tell you.  For most healthy full term babies feeding cues are obvious. 

Lets talk about Crying.  WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!  It sucks.  But it serves a purpose. 

CRYING is a vital "talent" used by your baby to indicate distress.  

Every parent knows that a crying baby is extremely stressful especially when it's your own.  Did you know that when your baby cries it sends a myriad of fight or flight hormones flooding through your body so you'll get up and take care of your baby?  Why is your baby's cry so loud?  So he/she can wake you up even if you're hibernating!  The good news is that if you respond quickly to your baby it can reduce their crying.  


Why do Babies cry?

Babies cry for many different reasons and some mothers swear that they can tell a difference between their baby's cries. 

  • Babies cry because they are hungry.

  • Babies cry because they feel some discomfort or pain. For example they may have some gas or they may feel hot or cold. 

  • Babies cry because they are distressed or something is stressing them out.  

  • Babies cry because they feel tired. 

  • Babies cry when they are overstimulated and need a break. 

  • Babies cry because they are frustrated. 

  • Babies cry because they feel unfamiliar sensations. Remember everything is new for your little one. 

  • Babies cry because they are fearful of something. 

  • Babies cry because something is distracting them.


How to calm Your Crying Baby:

Respond quickly to your baby's crying.  Once you get a better understanding of his/her cues you may be able to intercept their cry.  How nice would that be?  And remember that not all cries mean your baby is hungry.  Again, look for cues.  

Babies respond to faces, touch, sucking, being held close and making a shooshing noise next to their ear.  Introduce repetitive, sustained stimulation (repetition to soothe).  It may work in 20 seconds or it may take several minutes.  Give it a little time before trying something else.  Listen for the changes in their cry. 

All babies cry but some more than others.  Especially if your baby is suffering from colic.  If your baby cries persistently for 3 hours a day and more then 3 days a week for more then 3 weeks, he/she may have colic.  Always speak with your pediatrician with any concerns you may have. 

You may want to check out the book THE HAPPIEST BABY ON THE BLOCK for great soothing techniques.   I've attached a video of the author's techniques on the bottom of this blog. 

Baby Behavior 101 is a great video that will help you understand your baby's sleeping patterns and recognize your baby's cues.

Here is a video that shows the Happiest Baby On The Block 5S techniques. Here is a link you can buy DVD. Here is a link to buy the book. (affiliate links)


Just wanted to give you a little information regarding colic.  If your baby is suffering from it...I'm so sorry!  It's really tough having a colicky baby. Did you know that colic is pretty common, affecting  10% - 20% of all infants.  Colic can start in the first two to three weeks after birth and peaks between four to twelve weeks of age.  If you think your baby is experiencing colic please refer to my blog What Every New Mom Should Know About Colic.  It's one of my most popular blogs. 

QUESTIONS:  What are your tricks to calm a crying baby?  OR  Did you find this helpful and if you do why?  I would love to hear from you as well as learn from you so please leave a comment in the comment box below. 

If you find this information useful please feel free to share it with your friends and loved ones.