When Do Babies Smile? And How To Help Them Learn To

As babies grow their smiles have different meanings
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Is there anything more of a heartwarming sight than a smiling, giggling baby?

Babies start to smile and show a happy face from their early weeks of life but amazingly, as they grow, their smiles have different meanings. What's more, the development of smiling is in fact one of the many infant milestones within the first year of your baby's development.

You can work on your baby’s communication skills right from the get-go, and by encouraging them to smile, you are supporting the development of self-esteem. It enables your little one to know that their emotions are important and that they can impact their surrounding environment. It’s also great for general emotional and brain development. A great deal happens in your baby’s first year of life, and if you’re wondering when you can expect to see your baby’s first smiles, take a look here to learn when that unforgettable moment will be on its way.

For more great parenting tips, check out our guide to a two-years-old birthday party and find out [when you can put cereal in a baby's bottle] right here on Kidadl.

When Do Babies Start To Smile?

Typically, babies start smiling from around 6-12 weeks though you may have already noticed a little grin on their happy face before then. Babies can smile at four weeks, and these first smiles are known as reflex smiles. Interestingly babies start these reflex smiles before birth and continue to do so into their early weeks, until around two months. You can recognize a reflex smile as it’s usually very brief and happens randomly. Look out for a little grin when changing your baby or when your little one is sleeping. Experts widely believe these reflex smiles do not have an emotional trigger but are very similar to other early reflex behaviors show in infants, such as sucking and rooting.

There are several reasons why newborn babies often start smiling in their sleep. One is due to passing gas, and another is as the brain is developing emotions, a great deal of processing happens when your baby is sleeping.  Another reason babies smile in their sleep is the REM (known as active sleep) phase. This is a stage of sleep where dreams start to occur.

When Do Babies Smile Intentionally?

You may be wondering when do babies first smile socially? The answer is when the period of reflex baby smiles stops, the intentional smiles creep in with abundance! Many parents ask when will you know when it’s a real smile and not a reflex smile. A real intentional smile is when your baby laughs in response to something external, this could be you making a silly face or playing together with other caregivers. Trust us; you’ll know when it is an intentional real smile. Your baby’s whole face will glow!

An intentional smile is also considered a developmental milestone in your little one’s life and also known as a social smile. This milestone means they are starting to grow and understand human behavior. They are beginning to realize that reciprocating a smile back at you means they get your full attention. Your baby’s first smile is also a sign of the foundations of their early communication skills settling into place and that their vision has improved.

Babies being to realize smiling gets your full attention.

When Do Babies Start Laughing?

Beyond the super cuteness explosion of smiles, there come the fits of giggles to look forwards to. You may also start to notice cooing and babbling around this time, and at roughly three to four months, you may hear your baby laughing. Their first baby giggles may come randomly, perhaps at the sight of their favorite toy, a pet, or even you! After discovering laughing, your baby may laugh often as it makes them feel good with such a fun new sound to make. Along with cooing and babbling, your laughing smiling baby learns how to maneuver their tongue and lips to produce different sound effects. You may notice their laugh will start to develop, too, into full-on raucous belly laughs and excited squeals. If you’re seeing laughing episodes that don’t sound or seem right to you (perhaps they sound unpleasant), contact your doctor for further health information, as laughing can sometimes be a sign of a seizure.

Can I Help My Baby Learn To Smile Or Laugh?

Absolutely you can help elicit a baby smile! This time with your little one is a precious time to form a bond, and one way fantastic way of doing that is by eliciting plenty of those raucous giggles and beaming grins. Pick a time when your baby isn’t hungry; a cranky baby isn’t likely to give you a social smile. Keep close to your baby’s face. Don’t forget at this age, babies see best around eight to 12 inches away. To get your baby to smile, be sure to smile broadly at them and say hello in that classic sing-song style of voice. It may take a few attempts before you get your baby’s first smile. Here are some other great tips for supporting them with how to smile:

Get close to your baby's face so they can see you clearly.

Smile Often

The more smiles you give, the more you’ll start to see coming back. It’s even known as smile talking! By reacting to your baby’s smiles, you’ll be supporting their social development. Smiling back sends a clear message to your baby that they can trust you and that they are valued.

Keep It Going

Your baby may start with a smile to grab your attention, and it’s important to keep trying your best to keep the interaction going by smiling back. In fact, they may be waiting for you to smile back before copying you. They may also put their arms out towards you and wiggle their legs in excitement. It might seem as if your baby is just playful, but these are all great signs in your child’s emotional development.

Keep Eye Contact

When your baby is smile talking with you, try your best to give them your full attention so your little one knows that you are listening. These interactions help build communication skills and the body language needed for the whole of their life.

Get Physical

Tickling your baby softly or blowing raspberry kisses both offer a great way to get your baby to smile. You can sit on an exercise ball and bounce gently, or lie on your back and raise them into their air and slowly bring them back towards you for a kiss. Engage with them; why not pull a few silly faces as the more you do, the more they will want to interact right back at you.

Sometimes it may seem as if your baby is looking straight beyond you; this is their way of avoiding being overstimulated by exercising some control. If your baby was premature, it might also mean they will need a couple of weeks longer to develop smiling back at you to catch up, though please do seek medical advice about your specific situation.

What If My Baby Isn’t Smiling Yet?

There’s usually no reason for a cause for concern if you aren't yet getting a first real smile, it could just be their character. However, that said, seek medical advice and keep your midwife informed at any follow-up appointments if you have any concerns about your baby’s development. Indeed, speak to them if you aren’t noticing any interaction in your little one by three months or more.

If you found this article all about smiling helpful, then why not take a look at [when do babies say mama] or [who to invite to a baby shower]?

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