How can you tell when your baby wants to be awake and when he wants to go to bed?

Is he quiet when he sleeps?

Does he make little noises?

Do the noises mean he wants to get up or will he go back to sleep?

How can you tell when he is ready to get up?

Your baby eats and sleeps best if you do what he wants.

Let him sleep until he wakes up on his own. He will keep eyes open and maybe fuss a bit. Pick him up, change his diaper, and talk with him. He will wake up, get ready to eat, and then you can feed him. Help him stay awake but not get upset while he eats by looking, talking, and stroking. Let him stay awake after he eats, then put him to bed when he gets sleepy.

Here are your baby’s sleep and awake states and what to do when he is in each state.


He lies still and breathes deeply and evenly.

What to do

Let him sleep. He is fast asleep and will sleep for a while.


He moves around, makes sounds, breathes fast or slowly.

What to do

Wait to see what happens. He might wake up, or he might go back to quiet sleep again.


His eyes are open, but he looks sleepy. He fusses a little.

What to do

Wait a bit. If he keeps his eyes open or keeps fussing, get him up. Hold him. Take care of him. Talk with him.


His eyes are wide open, he looks bright and feels relaxed.

What to do

Feed him. He will eat best when he is awake and calm. While you feed, help him stay awake and calm. Look at him. Talk to him and stroke him in a way he likes. After you feed, talk and play a while. Give him something he likes to look at.


He feels stiff and looks unhappy.

What to do

Comfort him. Help him calm down. Feed him if he wants to eat. He may be so stirred up or tired that he has to fuss himself to sleep. You are learning. Next time feed him when he is calm and alert. Put him down to sleep when he is drowsy.


He looks sleepy and is relaxed.

What to do

Put him to bed and let him put himself to sleep. He may fuss a little, but not much.

Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: