when do babies smile

The Smile of a Child: When Do Babies Smile?

What is in the smile of a child? Why are we so fascinated by it? As parents, we yearn for our babies to smile, but why do we want to know when it will happen for the first time? Honestly, when we become parents for the first time, we want to know everything before it happens. We want to know about every weekly milestone before we even reach that age. Just like that, we are always eager to find out when babies smile and often find ourselves frantically searching: “When do babies smile?” because we see our newborn smile at us and we want to know all about the little advanced genius we are raising. Okay, so that was a joke, don’t get all judgy on me okay? We as parents do wonder about these things and rightly so. 

The Smile of a Child As a Newborn: Reflex Smiles

As much as we’d like to think that our babies have found true happiness in realizing that they have parents as awesome as us and that they can’t stop smiling about it, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to burst that bubble. They aren’t happy about coming into this world. They’re just smiling because… GAS. Oops. Have you also ever noticed the smile of a child or baby when they’re fast asleep? Again, that’s gas. So technically, this “smile” isn’t really a smile of a child. It’s how their facial muscles involuntarily flex when they pass gas and just end up resembling a smile. Sometimes they smile even though they aren’t passing any gas. It still isn’t a real smile. They are called reflex smiles and they often just happen without the presence of any external stimulus. 

I mean, really, think about it, why would a newborn baby be elated about leaving the comfort of his or her mother’s womb, to enter a cold, not-so-cozy world, where he even has to make the effort to cry when he needs something? I hate making the extra effort, the baby must be thinking.

Technically, babies smile the ‘reflex smile’ even before they are born. That’s right, some people have even caught the smile in 3D and 4D ultrasounds of their little babies and framed it right up. 

When Do Babies Smile For Real: Social Smiles

happy baby

What we actually mean when we ask this question is when our babies smile at US. This means we want to know when they actually start responding to external stimuli. This is a huge milestone for the tiny bundles in our laps and one every parent looks forward to.

Answering the question of when babies smile, they start responsive ‘social’ smiles somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks. The number is arbitrary though because every baby is different. There are some who may start really smiling at 4 weeks and there may be some that start smiling right after they turn 12 weeks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. 

You will be able to tell the difference when you see your baby smiling for real. For one, it will be at someone who he trusts the most so more often than not, the first smile will be for a parent. Secondly, you will see that the smile is longer than a reflex smile and that you can see the emotion even in your baby’s smiling eyes! I promise you that if you haven’t fallen in love with her yet (who am I kidding?!), you will be smitten now! 

Your baby will start by smiling at the sound of your voice, the sound of his sibling, his favorite nursery rhyme, or even the music from his cot mobile. Then, once his eyes adjust, he will even smile at visual stimuli, which means looking at his favorite face, YOURS! He will then soon start sharing his smiles with others also until he gets a little older, and stranger anxiety kicks in. So the next time you get worried too soon and frantically look up “When do babies smile?”, gently remind yourself: that’s something you don’t have to worry about right now. 

For now, you should be glad that your baby has a new way of expressing his emotions other than frowning and the customary crying, which is smiling! Finally, she has a way of saying: Mommy! You’re doing an awesome job! The smile of a child is contagious and has the magical power to light up your entire home. Cherish it!

When Should I Get Worried That My Baby Isn’t Smiling?

Why worry until you know you have to? I have never been a big proponent of worrying or telling people when to worry, but parenthood, especially becoming parents for the first time makes us into natural worrywarts. This is because we are responsible for an entire human being for the first time and want everything to go perfectly. My answer to this is: If you’re worried at any time, simply ask your pediatrician. Usually, doctors ask that they be informed if your baby hasn’t smiled by 3 months. This is only so they can figure out if the baby isn’t getting stimulated enough or if there’s an underlying issue. Whatever the cause is though, I would say, take a deep breath and ask your doctor for your peace of mind. Perhaps you have a grumpy baby who needs you to make an extra effort to make him or her smile. 

How can I tell if my baby is really smiling?

When it’s a real smile then it has a reason, your baby has either heard something, a familiar sound, or seen something he loves to make him smile. Secondly, the smile will be longer than a reflex smile. Thirdly, you can always tell from the eyes of your baby if she means that smile or not!

What can I do to make my baby smile?

Make silly faces and sounds, and basically become a clown for your baby! Babies love silly faces and sooner or later, you’ll find something that your baby loves and that which makes him or her giggle away. Please don’t tickle the babies to make them smile or laugh though. 

When should I call the doctor to ask about my baby not smiling?

Whenever you feel something isn’t right and you want to ask a doctor to keep your mind at ease, you should go ahead and ask. However, doctors recommend that you bring it past them if your baby hasn’t smiled by 12 weeks. 

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