When Does a Baby Start Smiling?

Jul. 10, 2024 | 3 min read

Annabella Team
Topics & Categories: Milk Our Knowledge

From the moment a baby is born, every little milestone becomes a moment of celebration! Starting from the very first sound they make, up to the first time they grab our finger, every achievement seems significant and exciting! However, the first and most heartwarming millstone is a baby’s first smile. Every parent awaits this special moment. So, when exactly does this magical moment occur? And what should you expect? We’ve got all the answers – you’ve come to the right place 😊

The First Smile: Reflex or not to Reflex?

Reflex Smiling

During the first days after birth, you may notice a small, sweet smile on your baby’s face. This can happen when they are sleeping, eating or even experience gas. Parents obviously want to believe that their newborn is smiling at them, but at the same time, they should note that those early smiles may be reflexes and not social responses.

Reflex smiles can begin as early as in-utero- starting around the 36th week of pregnancy. They continue to occur randomly after birth, until the baby is about one or two months old. These reflex smiles are unintentional and are not a response to the baby’s environment or emotions.

Social Smiles

Now, let’s talk about the milestone we have all been waiting for- the exciting social smile! This is the first “real” smile, when a baby is actually reacting to someone or something. It is an exciting milestone and is often a sign that your baby has started recognizing familiar people and responding to social cues.

On average, babies start to smile socially somewhere between 6-12 weeks. However, this can vary, since every baby develops at their own pace. The social smile is a big step in a baby’s social development, and is often the first interaction between the parent and their child. 

Why is Smiling Important

Emotional Development

When babies start smiling socially, that is a clear indication that their emotional development is underway. These smiles hint at the fact that the baby is beginning to understand social interactions and create emotional connections. It is a sign that the baby recognizes you and is comfortable with your presence. Also, it shows the baby is forming a loving, trusting connection with you.

Eyesight Development

Social smiles indicate that the development of a baby’s sight is advancing properly. Before they can smile as a response to your face or tricks, babies must first be able to see and recognize these visual cues. And so, if a baby smiles socially, that indicates to the fact that they can focus on a face and is beginning to understand facial expressions.

How to Encourage Your Baby to Smile

Creating a Happy Environment

One of the best ways to encourage your baby to smile is to create a happy, loving environment. Frequently smiling at your baby, making funny faces at them or tickling them gently can bring forth that precious smile.

Interactive Play

Interactive play, such as peeking, singing or using bright colored toys can also help. These kinds of games stimulate a baby’s senses and can lead to a happy response in the form of a smile.

My Baby isn’t Smiling, what Should I do?

While most babies begin smiling somewhere between 6-12 weeks, it is important to remember that every child is unique and develops at their own pace. However, if your baby is not yet smiling by three months and is not showing any other signs of social involvement, it may be a good idea to consult with a pediatrician.

Just Smile!

Babies’ first smiles are heartwarming developmental milestones. Whether they are reflexes or social smiles, these wonderful expressions are a joy to witness. Remember that every baby is unique and develops at their own pace, so enjoy every moment of their development. Remember, your love and interaction play a crucial role in the baby’s social and emotional development!

Supporting Your Baby’s Smiles Beyond the early months, as your baby continues to grow, supporting their emotional and social development remains crucial. Engage in activities that promote bonding and trust, such as reading together, playing interactive games, and maintaining a routine that includes plenty of positive interactions. Encouraging socialization with other babies and children can also be beneficial. As they begin to recognize and respond to more social cues, their smiles will become more frequent and intentional, reflecting their growing understanding of the world around them. Remember, every smile is a sign of progress and a testament to the love and care you provide. Celebrate these moments, knowing that your efforts play a significant role in shaping your baby’s future emotional and social well-being.

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