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Infant behavior cues


How do I know what my baby needs?

All babies have behaviors that tell you what they need. Premature or sick babies do this, too. Watch for cues (signs) of what to do to help your baby grow and develop. By watching your baby's skin color, breathing, facial expressions, and movements, you will be able to tell whey your baby is satisfied, when she wants you to interact with her, and when she needs some rest.

Cues that your baby is content and ready to interact with you:

  • normal skin color
  • arms and legs flexed or tucked
  • hand touching his face
  • hand to mouth or in mouth
  • sucking
  • looking at you
  • smiling and looks relaxed
  • regular breathing rate
  • if your baby is on a monitor, regular heartbeat

Signs of stress—cues that your baby is getting too much stimulation:

  • hiccupping
  • yawning
  • sneezing
  • frowning
  • looking away
  • squirming
  • frantic, disorganized activity
  • arms and legs pushing away
  • arms and legs limp and floppy
  • skin color changes

How can I help my baby?

  • Avoid bright lights and loud noise.
  • Use a soft, quiet voice when talking to your baby.
  • Handle your baby slowly and gently.
  • When moving or holding your baby, keep his arms and legs close to his body.
  • Help your baby bring her hands close to her face.
  • Help your baby maintain a relaxed, tucked position.
  • Avoid too much stimulation or activity at one time.
  • Let your baby sleep. Sleeping helps babies grow.

Special instructions





This sheet is not specific to your child, but provides general information. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor, nurse, or occupational therapist.

Children's Minnesota

Reviewed 7/2021 © Copyright


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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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