How Understanding 7 States of Consciousness Can Transform Your Babywearing Experience
Picture this: You’re rushing around, trying to get out of the house – you’re running late and it seems to be one thing after the other. You’ve finally got yourself – and anyone else needing seeing to – sorted, and you’re ready to leave. There’s just one thing left to do…..you pick your lovely little baby up, who’s been happily chatting to you, and start getting them secure in your sling or carrier, and BAM! Seemingly out of nowhere, they start protesting, fussing maybe even screaming. What on earth happened, and how the hell are you going to get out now?!
Don’t worry, there’s an answer! As the founder of Tribal Babies Sling Consultancy course and a professional who’s worked with hundreds of families using slings and carriers since early 2012, I’ve seen this sort of thing in its different forms time and again, and have a deep understanding of why it happens and how to avoid it. At sling library sessions, consultations and workshops, with my friends, and my own babies – nobody seems to be immune to it, and of course, it’s not just limited to slings! The majority of the time, it comes down to the state of consciousness your baby is in at that point in time.
So what are the different stages? It’s widely accepted that there are 6 stages for newborns, but I’ve noticed 7. These are:
1) Deep (quiet) sleep – you know this one, where your beautiful one is slumbering peacefully, totally gone.
2) Light (active) sleep – this is the time when you’re either glad they’re finally finished napping, or desperately praying the neighbours/toddler/children/dog/cat/tiniest noise doesn’t wake them! They startle in their sleep at noises and twitch or make some movements.
3) Drowsiness – that point in time where you feel either huge relief or smile at them with love, watching the huge yawns, eye-rubbing, droopy eyelids and the few seconds here and there of beginning to nod off.
4) Quiet alert – your little one is totally chilled out, quiet, peaceful and content. They don’t move much, if at all, and seem to be drinking everything in as they gaze at the world.
5) Active alert – this is where they’re stretching their arms and legs, making those heart-melting gurgles and cooing sounds, look around lots and are generally quite active. In this state they will signal in different ways what – if any – their needs are.
6) Fussing – fussing is usually included in the active alert state, but I feel it needs to be separate as they’re not in that state because they’re fussing. This state comes when their earlier attempts to tell you they needed haven’t been seen, so they then start getting more persistent and vocal about it!
7) Crying – when your baby has had enough of communicating in other ways, they reach the last resort…..bawling. They move frantically, screw their face up in upset, and make sure everyone knows there’s something wrong!
Are you thinking: “What do these states have to do with my baby suddenly hating the sling?!” Well, it’s as simple as, if you pick the wrong time to put them in, all hell may break loose!
What can you do to avoid the situation at the beginning of this post, where they went from active alert to unsettled (and quickly onto crying!)? Unfortunately I’m still looking for the answer to getting out of the house easily and on time, but avoiding the scream-y baby drama is something I can help with!
- If you know you’re going out at whatever time, pre-tie your stretchy, use this poppable woven wrap carry or set up your ring sling/mei tai/buckled carrier ready to use as soon as you finish a feed, see they’re drowsy or they’re in the quiet alert state.
- Time going to to your local sling library meet around them napping if possible. Arriving with a sleeping baby rather than a tired baby will make it easier for them to like trying out slings, and means you can concentrate on how to use it! By the time you’re ready to try with your baby, they will hopefully either still be sleeping, or in the quiet alert state.
- Learn how to feed your baby (breast or bottle) in a sling – this can be a godsend for those times when (as much as you want to sit down, stop and nurse them) you might otherwise feel like the only option you have is to delay their feed. This can avoid the crying stage (them and you!). You can learn to do this safely from a Babywearing Consultant.
- Practice recognising each state, and notice what things help avoid the stressful ones. It’s amazing how much babies communicate their needs in different ways before they reach the crying state!
Clients have fed back over the years how that knowledge has not only helped instantly with carrying their baby in a sling, but also in getting to know their baby better, which in turn has helped with parenting this brand new human being. Invaluable or what?
So there you have it, and it’s not rocket science! Sometimes it can be a struggle to remember to keep ahead of where they’re at, but when that happens, you now know how to recognise it and how to quickly get them to where they’re happy again. You’ll be on your way in no time!
You may also be interested to know that carrying in arms or in a sling (the combination of baby being held, their body in contact with their carer’s, and being on the move) can actually help prolong the quiet alert state*. Who doesn’t want more of that?!
If this has intrigued you, and you’d love to learn a whole lot more about supporting families on their baby carrying journey, you can find out more about the training I offer here.
*Ref: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology – Anneliese F. Korner, Evelyn B. Thoman (Volume 10, pgs 67-78 – 1970)