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One of the magical moments many parents can’t wait to have is to see their bundle of joy smile.
Seeing your baby smile for the first time is a moment you may want to capture in a photograph. That toothless grin can melt a bad day away and make you the happiest person on Earth.
Their first smile is the first indication that they are developing and have started to recognize human behavior. Seeing your baby smile will motivate you as a parent to be the best you can be for your growing baby.
If you’re curious as to when you might see your little one flash a gummy grin, read further to find out when this magical moment can happen. There are also tips on how you can encourage your little bundle of joy to smile.
What is Reflex Smile?
Did you know babies start smiling even when they are in their mother’s womb? Many doctors say that infants start smiling between 25 to 27 weeks of gestational age.
However, this smile is not what we would call a real smile or intentional however it is actually a reflex action. A reflex smile can start happening while the baby is still growing in the womb and can continue until the baby is born and reaches the age of 2 months.
How to tell the difference between a reflex smile and real smile?
The most prominent difference between real and reflex smiles are that a real smile reaches the eyes and brightens your baby’s whole face. You can see the cheerfulness in the eyes and notice just how authentic the smile actually is.
On the other hand, a reflex smile happens only for a few seconds and at random moments like when a baby is sleeping, peeing, passing gas, etc. A baby will show its real smile when they hear or see something stimulating, like the face of their parents, the voice of older siblings, his favorite toy, and more.
When do babies first smile?
As your baby grows and starts to learn new things in this world , you will see his full real smile replacing the unresponsive reflex smile. This change typically happens between 6 and 12 weeks or one and a half to two months.
However, this can vary from child to child as every child is unique and may take different time to learn these new things. Don’t worry if you do not see your little one showing its toothless smile even after 2 months. Your little one may need a little longer than others. Try to give the baby some time and encourage it to smile often with toys and other stimulations.
Initially, your baby may choose to only show this magical smile only to the people closest to them like mommy or daddy. You may notice the baby smiling more when you are singing its favorite lullaby, laughing, smiling or playing games like peek-a-boo and others. As your baby practices it’s smile more and more, they will start showing this heartwarming toothless grin even to strangers.
With time, your baby will start smiling at funny noises. At around the age of 5 months, your baby will not only have the ability to smile but also to laugh out loud at whatever they think is funny in the moment.
The connection between Baby’s Smile and its development
The smile on a baby’s face does not only exhibit a happy mood but also gives parents an idea of how much their baby has grown since birth. When a baby starts smiling at things that make them happy, it shows they have started learning more about human behavior, emotions, and the connection of a smile with happy moments. Your baby will become aware of their feelings being mattered and that this is a means that they can use to communicate with you and those around you.
A smile also tells us a lot about your baby’s vision. If your baby smiles when you make funny faces, this can be an indicator they have a clearer vision and can now differentiate between different faces and objects.
Similarly, a smile indicates that your baby’s nervous system is developing in a healthy way considering they replaced their reflex smile with a real smile in only a few months successfully. This also means their mind is maturing and they know that through this smile they can express happiness, contentment, and get the attention of those they care about.
You can also use these techniques to encourage your baby to smile more often and help them grow into a sociable person.
How to encourage babies to smile
While some babies naturally do not like smiling often, you as a parent have the responsibility to encourage your little one to become the best they can be. For that, the following are a few ways you can promote the habit of grinning, smiling, or even laughing in your child.
Interact with your little one
There is no denying that parenting takes lots of effort and time. Making time to encourage your baby to smile is essential for the sake of your child’s development. Studies show that babies who spend more time with parents who interact with them often, talk to them, and hold them close, tend to have a more developed brain, and can grow into a more sociable person.
Don’t be embarrassed, talk to your baby and sing lullabies (don’t worry, they don’t care if you can’t sing). While talking, make sure you bring your face close to theirs. As the vision of a newborn is not the same as the vision of a grown up child. Keep your face at a distance of around 10cm to 13cm so they can see your features better.
Share jokes with your baby and laugh at your own jokes to inspire laughter. Babies tend to copy their parents. Pretty soon your baby will become your number 1 fan. Do not underestimate the power of the physical touch with your baby. Place them on your belly while talking, tickle their small belly while changing their clothes and give them small kisses all over.
Play games and make playful noises
Games and playful noises are a great way to excite babies and earn their heavenly smile in return. Games like the peek-a-boo surprise babies and encourage them to not only smile but make giggling or playful noises as well.
Other than making noises, you can use different sounds like doorbells to get a reaction from your baby and make them smile. While playing games, clap your hands to get their attention. The more you interact or encourage your baby to smile the better and earlier results you will see.
Smile, cuddle and make eye contact, and smile some more.
Read also the article Here’s why you should smile at your baby – a lot
Excite baby through different colorful toys
Use toys that make noise to encourage your baby to smile more. You can buy animal toys that make animal voices or any other toy that excites your baby. This way your baby will not only learn to smile but will also start recognizing the sounds you are playing. Silly, funny faces can also bring a smile to your baby’s face. Each baby is different, but one thing is for sure, baby’s love lots of attention.
Tips to keep in mind
Here are a few handy tips that will help you during this learning period and make things easier for you and baby.
- Play with your baby when he is full and in the mood. A sleepy or hungry baby will never appreciate playfulness, in fact you may get a cranky baby. Find which time of the day is their favorite when they are full of energy and ready to play.
- While playing, bring the baby to a room that has natural light or is well lit. This will boost their mood and deter sluggishness if there is any.
- Let your baby spend time with family members daily. They will learn new faces and noises faster. This way he will not only smile after seeing his parent’s face but will also encourage being in the presence of other family members as well.
- No doubt that parenting is taking lots of your time and efforts, do not forget that you are a human and not a robot. Spend some time on your own self as well. Reconnect with your partner and share the ideas you have in mind to make parenting less tiring.
What does baby’s smile mean?
A newborn takes months to learn to talk. Even after one year, a baby can speak only a few words. So, an expression like a smile is what babies use to communicate with their parents and others around them.
So a baby will smile at you in the morning (you can call it a good morning smile) to show you their genuine affection. The baby will smile at the funny faces to get engaged and show that they like getting attention that way.
Another meaning behind a baby’s smile is they are trying to get attention. As through this smile, the baby earns ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ from mommy or daddy. So, they feel more confident when being encouraged to smile.
Baby not smiling? Here is what It could mean
If your baby is 3 months old and still has not started smiling, do not be alarmed. Every baby is unique and has his or her own personality. Unlike a jolly cousin or sibling who started smiling just after 2 months, give it time, your newborn should begin to smile any moment.
Many parents become worried when they find the answer to questions like ‘when do babies start to smile’ because their baby did not start smiling even after 6 to 12 weeks. Parents start relating it to a symptom of autism spectrum disorder. No doubt, it is one of the signs of this disorder but it is not the only sign.
If your baby hears you and responds to your actions without smiling then he may not have this jolliness in his personality. Do not worry just because of this mere symptom alone. However, not smiling at a funny face or a laugh even after 4 months of age may mean your baby has a vision or hearing issue.
If you have any concerns related to your baby’s smile, reach out to your pediatrician.
When do premature babies start to smile
As premature babies are born smaller and lighter in weight they take a little more time than normal babies to start smiling fully. Not only smile, but they may also develop slower during the early months but do not worry they will catch up as they get older.
Remember that every child is different from the other. Not even siblings have the same habits. If your premature baby takes a longer time to smile than you expected, do not feel hopeless. Be patient and encourage your baby to smile without disturbing his sleep and comfort.
When do babies start to smile – conclusion
When it comes to answering our big question, when do babies start to smile, know that the ideal time is between 2 and 3 months for most but not all.
Do not worry if your child develops this trait slower than others. Believe it or not babies have different natures and abilities just as we adults do. Give it time and your baby will begin to smile and even laugh while sharing happy moments with mommy and daddy.
For now, get your camera ready to capture the most precious smile in the world and store these heartwarming moments to keep the memory alive always.