It is a very common question from newborn parents – When do babies smile? It is one of the very first things we look for from our newborn, and much anticipated. Read our article to learn more about that precious baby’s first smile.
It is a very common question from newborn parents – When do babies
smile? It is one of the very first things we look for from our newborn, and much anticipated.
This is an eagerly awaited moment, and often can be confused with
Is that a smile? Nope, just wind.
Is that a smile? Nope, just concentrating on pooping.
Is that a smile? Nope, hang, just getting ready for a big spit up.
Why do we
look forward to our baby’s first smile so much?
The first six weeks with your newborn can be some of the hardest of a
mother’s life. Your baby is so new and everything he needs is new to you. It is
a steep learning curve full of discovery, wonder, poop and more than a few
tears (from everyone!).
When your baby is brand new he can seem almost like a tiny animal
rather than a person; his needs can seem like just food, sleep, new nappies and
that’s about it. You may not feel like you are connecting with him as a person,
and sometimes these few weeks can seem a bit lonely.
But then he smiles, and the world lights up. You don’t have a small
needy animal living in your house, you have a beautiful baby. He sees you and
loves you and suddenly everything is possible.
Magical – right?
a smile mean to a parent?
Your baby’s first smile is something different to gas or pooping,
because of the feeling and intent behind it. It is a real smile because your
baby is expressing happiness.
This is one of the first times that he is engaging with you on a human
level, and one of the most direct ways he is letting you know that you are
doing a good job.
It’s only natural that you would need validation as a new parent, and
this is one of the simplest ways you can get it. All the other people around
you can try to reassure you that you are parenting well, but there might still
But when your baby smiles at you, you know for sure.
My third child, I swear, was smiling in our first photo of her, cradled
in my arms straight after she was delivered.
But it probably was not the case.
Babies have a reflex smile which apparently they can do even when in
the womb. These smiles aren’t intentional and don’t happen in response to
anything, and are the early ones that confuse us so easily.
This reflex smile disappears when your baby is around two months old.
The first real smiles appear anywhere between 6 weeks and 12 weeks of age
The real smiling starts to take place when his brain and nervous system
have developed enough for him to smile on purpose.
What does your baby’s first smile mean for him?
Your baby’s first smile is a sign of social, visual and emotional
His vision has improved and now he can make eye contact. He is now
focussing on and recognising faces. He is
also working out the effect that his smile has, and that his opinions matter.
He will learn cause and effect – he will start to pick up that when he
smiles, you smile, and good feelings follow.
In the beginning, his mother will
get most of the smiles (Yay!), but he will interact with others as well and
have smiles for them too. Around this time, he also may start to make noises as
a way of communicating.
Giggles will follow after this and around the age of 5 months, you will probably experience full-on laughter. And that is the single
greatest sound in the whole world (I may be slightly biased…)
spot the difference between a reflex smile and the real thing
Reflex smiles are shorter in duration and may
occur randomly or at strange times, like when your baby is asleep
Real smiles are longer in duration and usually
happen in response to something
Real smiles include other facial features as
well – you will see emotion and connection in his eyes as well, and other parts
of the face light up too.
you help things along?
Many parents feel silly about this, but the best way to get reactions
from your baby is to interact with him directly. Talk to him often, sing, make
silly noises and expressions, tickle his hands or feet, etc.
Constant eye contact and lots of smiles will work wonders. Silly games
like blowing raspberries and playing peekaboo are also big winners.
Try not to overstimulate him, however;
give him breaks in between the silliness to be calm and chilled as well.
my baby doesn’t smile?
If your baby isn’t smiling this could be an indication that something
in his development is delayed, including his eyesight, his cognition and his
ability to engage with others.
Lack of smiling can be an early indicator for autism spectrum disorder,
however, it will usually not be the only
symptom. If your child hasn’t smiled yet but vocalises,
responds to verbal and visual cues from her parents and makes eye contact then
you probably don’t need to be concerned about autism. He might just not smile
all that much – some people are like that.
Every baby does things in their own time, but the first smile is a sign
of good development. If you have passed the three-month mark and your baby
isn’t smiling or making eye contact, then mention this to your Maternal and
Child Health Nurse, or your family doctor.
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