Understanding your baby ‘Baby States’ and communication

In the quiet alert state your baby is ready for interaction.

Your baby may:

  • Look at you and is calm
  • Have wide and bright eyes
  • Look interested and ready to play 
  • May babble and coo

In the unsettled / active alert state your baby is ready for a change. 

Your baby may:

  • Look away 
  • Turn his head away
  • Move, wiggle and squirm a lot
  • Yawn, hiccough, sneeze


In the crying state your baby is ready to be soothed. 

Your baby may:

  • Cry
  • Whine or fuss
  • Arch their back
  • Pull away

  • Babies love faces and love to hear your voice. You are their favourite toy!
  • Looking at your face is the best way for babies to learn
  • Babies are keen to copy you! Facial expressions that help a baby to know that his feelings are understood are known as ‘mirroring’. Try sticking your tongue out and see what your baby does
  • Babies can communicate from birth and enjoy interacting mostly through eye contact, smiling, babbling and touching

Step 1 Look at baby
Step 2 Look at and talk to baby
Step 3 Look at, talk and put hand on baby’s tummy
Step 4 Look at, talk, hold baby’s arms across chest
Step 5 Look at, talk, pick up and hold baby calmly
Step 6 Look at, talk, hold and rock calmly
Step 7 Look at, talk, underarm swaddle with hands to mouth, rock calmly
Step 8 Look at, talk, underarm swaddle, rock calmly, give finger to suck or dummy

The three W's

WATCH. WAIT. WONDER to find out what your baby is trying to tell you.

  • WATCH quietly what your baby is doing, noticing his signals and cues
  • WAIT for them to initiate an action or interaction
  • WONDER about what your baby might be feeling and talk to them about what you think they may be feeling

Talk to your baby, wait for a response and take turns with the communication. Your baby is a unique person with a personality and temperament which may be different from your own. Acknowledge their likes, dislikes, preferences and feelings.

Some babies are very sensitive to their surroundings, and may need gentle, calm handling. Babies have their own special ways of telling you what they need.

Here are some signs to look out for if your baby is finding things a bit difficult:

  • Change in skin colour (become more pale, more red etc)
  • Tremble or startle
  • Sneezing, yawning, hiccupping, spitting up
  • Fussing or crying

If your baby shows any of these signs, slow down or stop as your baby might need a break from the activity they are doing.