I was present at one baptism and I saw the priest ask the sponsor 3 times "do you renounce Satan?" to which he replied affirmatively - while the baby of course didn't seem aware of what was going on.
Erracht, you say it right, the baby didn't seem aware
- but its soul was altogether aware. It takes 9 months for the body to be put together and grow to be born, and then it takes years for it to grow to maturity - but the soul is a different matter.
Do we have any teachings about the age and consciousness of the soul? Maybe other readers can help out with that. I found one statement on the subject of 'soul' at http://www.pelagia.org/htm/b05.en.the_illness_and_cure_of_the_soul.02.htm
(passage on The Soul of Man) and it appears in a very long context. Therefore I have to take it out of context here. It says:
However we believe that the world and man, therefore man's soul also, is a positive work of God the creator. It is not the fruit of the fall of a real world; in that case evil would be immanent in the creation of the existing world. God created the soul. The soul is not a particle of divinity, neither God's breath, as some people say. But since, as Holy Chrysostom says, the in-breathing of God is the energy of the Holy Spirit, it is this energy of the Holy Spirit which created the soul, without itself becoming the soul. This is a very important point to be stated, because thus we realise that we cannot examine the soul autonomously, but in connection with God.
Those who say baptism is for persons who are old enough to make a decision for it do not realize that the soul is fully conscious at all times, even in the mother's womb, and needs the comfort of the Sacrament. I consider baptism of a baby an act of love and part of God's providential care for the soul.
On the other hand, in the early days of the church only adults could receive baptism. It usually was done on the Day of Pentecost. And they were to have had instructions first.
In the 3rd century the Church mandated baptism for children and infants to assure their salvation in case of accident.
In Mark 16:16 we read that " He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Can an infant believe? What part of us is it that we believe with? And then also consider Chrismation. At Chrismation the gifts of the Holy Spirit are being embedded as spiritual seeds into the soul of the one being baptized (according to my Orthodox Catechism from 1968).
Maybe you clerics on this forum have more and better words to share. This is just an humble attempt of an answer.