Hi mommy. I am your baby. I know that being a new parent is not easy. However, it also comes with some perks. One of them is to be able to see me smile for the first time. Just seeing my angelic face light up with a smile is enough to make up for all those sleepless hours and postpartum stress you have to endure because of me.
It is usual for parents to start wondering when do babies smile. Smiling signifies an important milestone not only for the baby’s social development but also for physical development. Since infants cannot yet speak, other than crying, smiling is one way they communicate their feelings. The smile conveys their emotional state and well-being. It is a social cue for the parents to know that they are doing things right. Smiling also helps parents to understand that the baby’s visual and nervous system are developing well.
So if you wonder, when do babies smile, you’re not alone. Many parents like you wonder about the same thing. So if you want to know more, you’ve come to the right place. Read on below.
When do babies smile?
Do you know that babies smile in two stages? The first stage is called a reflex smile, and the second stage is called a social smile. Let’s explore what those two types of smiles are.
During my first month of being born, you may notice that I keep smiling in my sleep. While it is exciting to see me smile, this smile is not yet the real deal. So if you’re wondering when babies smile in their sleep do they see angels, the answer is no. Reflex smiles don’t last more than a few seconds and sometimes look like a grimace rather than a grin. My smile is probably lopsided too. My eyes also are not fixated on anything.
Reflex smiles actually happened when I was in utero, between 25 and 27 weeks gestational age. It continues after my birth till I am two months old. Contrary to the name, reflex smiles aren’t actually a response to anything. They occur at random or during sleep. No one knows what triggers those smiles, but some experts think it’s just a natural way for me to start practicing different skills. Basically, I am just doing what babies do, I smile, along with sucking, blinking, and even crying. By the way, being gassy while sleeping can also trigger my smile.
This second stage is the answer to the question, “when do babies smile for real?”
At this stage, I start to develop a sense of social awareness. I learn about social cues and how to get your attention. I start smiling in response to the audio and visual stimuli around me. That’s how I show interest and react to your high-pitched voice or the funny face you made.
Usually, my real (a.k.a social) smile begins after I reach two months old. Unlike a smirk or a grimace, I will start making eye contact, and my whole face will light up when I smile. My genuine smile also happens when I am awake instead of asleep. My smile is longer, more consistent, and more symmetrical. I learn that smiling lets me connect with others. I can use it to express pleasure, excitement, contentment, and happiness.
When do babies smile socially?
During my visit to the clinic, it is normal for the pediatrician to ask you whether you’ve seen me smiling yet. Don’t be discouraged if I still haven’t started smiling. Every baby develops differently. Some take up to 4 months to begin smiling socially.
Here are some tips and tricks you can use to push my smiling button on.
- When I am relaxed and comfortable, especially after nursing or diaper changing, take me in your arms and smile. Greet me by saying hello in a sing-song pitch. It may take a few attempts, but when done often enough, I might start reacting to you.
- Cuddle and play with me often. Babies like me who get lots of care and affection not only develop faster, we also have larger brains and are more sociable. So the more you spoil me, the quicker I build my social awareness and learn social cues.
- Embrace the clown in you. Don’t be afraid to get silly around me. Make as many funny faces as you can, baby talk to me, imitate any animal’s sound, blow raspberries on my belly if you have to, or play peek-a-boo with me. All these might help me smile, and it’s not like I can tell anyone about it. Your secret is safe with me.
- Keep smiling. I know that caring for me is not always sunshine and rainbows. But keep on smiling. The more you smile at me, the more likely I start to smile back at you. Try to not look away from me when you do that too. I might get a mixed signal that will make me confused.
What if the baby isn’t smiling even after four months?
First of all, if I don’t start smiling even after four months, please do not panic and start browsing “Is there something wrong with my baby?” The best thing for you to do is to refer it to the pediatrician. The more logical explanation is that I could be having problems with my eyesight or the nervous system around my facial area.
I know you may have heard that a delay in smiling is considered an early indicator of autism spectrum disorder. However, it is not always the case. I might not be smiling, but I am still making eye contact with you and responding to your verbal and visual cues. It could only mean that I am not so generous with my smile. Babies are born with different temperaments and personalities. Some are cheery, while some might be a bit stingy with their smiles.
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To sum up – when do babies smile.
At the end of the day, when babies smile varies from one baby to another. I will smile when I am ready. Just be patient, and when the right time comes, I promise that you will be filled with joy seeing my smiling face. Just make sure you have your smartphone camera ready to capture my first smile.