Build Routines Around Sleep/Awake Cycles

Babies have natural cycles that their little bodies go through daily. In fact, these cycles happen over and over again over a 24 hour period.


If you observe your infant carefully, you will be able to use his natural cycles to organize his, and your day. The reward for sensitivity to the transitions in the cycles, will be a calmer, more organized infant with predictable times for awake and sleep. His sleep will be more restful and his awake times will be delightful learning times for you both.


This is How it Works.

Say your baby awakens at around 6 am on most days. He calls to you to come and get him. He is ready to interact and learn. This is the QUIET ALERT STATE.


Time passes and baby tires , loses focus on you and play, becomes more physically active, and starts to look a little cranky. This is the ACTIVE ALERT STATE. It is time for Mom to wind down activity surrounding baby. It is a good time to read books with him.


Finally baby works himself into the CRY STATE. After a little crying (and you calming him), he goes into the DROWSY STATE, much like you feel at a meeting after a heavy lunch.




He is telling you that he is ready to rest. A quiet, dark, somewhat cool room will allow baby to go into a DEEP SLEEP STATE. In deep sleep there are no body movements other than breathing and heart beat. Baby is very difficult to wake. Don’t try to feed a baby in this state. It is a good time to trim his nails as he won’t wake easily.


Time passes and baby starts moving around in his sleep. There can be arm and leg movements. The eyes can move under the lids. You may hear vocal sounds or tummy sounds, or even a bowel movement.


Baby is in the ACTIVE SLEEP STATE. Baby will be waking soon. There is no time now for you do disappear to do some ironing.


From active sleep, baby moves into DROWSY STATE and the whole cycle starts again.

The Six Different States

1. Quiet Alert

This is the wonderful state where baby looks with interest at his world and you. His eyes may shine, look intense, widen.


This is his LEARNING STATE! It is when you want to be talking with baby, playing with baby, and going through routines with baby in a fun and gentle way.

2. Active Alert

Baby is not so happy any more. His movements become erratic, he may whimper or cry softly. His system has taken in all of the information that it can handle right now. His brain and body need a rest from all of the excitement.


If you intervene at this time, you can avoid a huge meltdown. Talk reassuringly to him. Move him into a more quiet space, reduce lighting, stop caregiving routines and just let baby rest. Sit with him and read a book, play lullabies or sing and hold, walk him, take him outside and walk. Try the baby swing and see how he reacts.

3. Cry

Yes, it is the big C word. There is generally no avoiding it. It is a state where baby throws off a lot of frustration and agitation of the central nervous system. It appears to be a necessary part of the cycles for growth. But, you can make it less of an issue if you do what you can to help baby through it. If you try to adjust the environment to reduce stimulation and make him as comfortable as possible, the cry time will be reduced.

4. During Quiet Sleep

It is very hard to wake baby up. There is generally no body movement other than breathing and pulse.


This makes it a good time to cut finger nails or know that you have some time to get the dishes done.

5. In Active Sleep

The baby moves around. You will notice more movement of his eyes under the eyelids. He may smile or grimace. Arms and legs will move around and sounds may emerge from his tummy or intestines.


This lets you know that you don’t have a lot of time to get something done. Baby can wake up easily with noise and activity around him. Or, if you know that he is really tired, you can be very quiet and see if he will go back into quiet sleep.

6. Drowsy

This is just what you think it is. It happens before sleep and coming out of sleep.

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