When Do Babies Smile? A Classic Question

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Many babies begin to smile in the first month after they are born. Once babies are born, their smile is a reflex, mostly when they are content or they are passing gas. However, as time goes on and they begin to interact with you and others, they begin to smile intentionally to show their happiness or delight in response to stimuli. This is why smiling in babies more often is noted as between a month and a half to three months of age; more parents are looking for the baby to smile out of happiness, rather than as a reflex.

When Do Babies Smile?

When Your Baby Smiles: An Introductory Overview

There is nothing like seeing your child smile for the first time. The magic of the moment is something that will stay inside of your heart forever. It is also a social development skill that demonstrates happiness and an awareness of life that produces happiness. That is part of the reason that many parents are more than excited to see their baby’s first smile.

However, when a baby smiles, especially a newborn baby, it does not immediately correspond to the state of his or her happiness. It could easily mean that the baby is relaxed or falling asleep, rather than happy. The baby’s smile is considered a reflex early on, but as your baby grows and begins to recognize social cues, her ability to smile goes from involuntary to a specific response to the appropriate stimulus. There are several key factors that smiling demonstrates, all of which are good signs for your baby’s developmental journey as a whole. Smiling’s benefits include a variety of social, emotional, and physical development.

Since smiling is one of the first milestones, and it happens relatively quickly after birth, many parents see it as a good sign. Early days for new parents especially are fraught with concerns over diapers, breastfeeding and bottles, safety issues, and new and interrupted routines. Smiles from our darling children seem to cast light onto some of the shadows of parenthood. In the event that your baby does not reach the milestone for smiling before the end of the fourth month, there are very few instances where the cause for concern goes to the extremes.

When Do Babies Smile?

The Signs and Benefits of a Baby Smiling

When your baby begins to smile, right after you have given birth, you will find it more of a reflex. There are several potential causes behind their smiles at this point. However, once your baby gives you an intention smile, given of his or her own volition, it is a sign that your baby has developed in a number of significant ways; this includes showing you, as the parent, that your baby’s skills have increased on a social, emotional, physical, and visual basis.

Smiling is a social conditioning to show pleasure. In smiling back of his or her own choice, your baby has demonstrated that he or she knows when to smile. Can you imagine babies smiling when they are mad? I have never seen that happen. Parents during the first few weeks of their baby’s life will be smiling down at their baby. The baby’s visual development has increased enough to where he has been able to see you smiling enough that he has observed both when you are smiling, and why you are smiling. He mimics you as a result. Some parents will lean in really close to the baby’s face so he or she is able to see the parent’s face clearly. This is one way that babies may learn to smile faster. Their eyes have to focus in on objects that are nearby in order to see them clearly at first. As they grow, they are better able to see things, especially familiar things, such as a mother’s face, from further away. The eyes are also helpful in allowing the parent to see the difference between a smile that is a reflex and a smile that is genuinely given in response; the eyes will reflect their cogitative state. When babies smile as a reflex, it is often with their eyes closed, as many are drifting off to sleep or they are tooting gas involuntarily. By looking into a baby’s eyes, you will be able to see their happiness, which will likely influence your own.

Because of this emotional connection, seeing your child smile for the first time will allow you to see that he has grown mentally as well. Emotional development will aid in the baby’s ability to connect to other people emotionally, greatly benefiting them in the long run.

Coupled with the benefits is just seeing the physical reaction, too. Physical development, including the muscles in the baby’s face that are required for smiling, is always something to be excited about in babies.

The last benefit of seeing a child smile of their own intention is to see that they have developed a sense of sociality. No matter where people go, they will always need to be able to communicate with other people in order to survive and be happy. A baby, seeing her mother or father smile down at her, will be able to pick up on the affection and pleasure behind the movement. In reciprocating this act, she is further able to respond to their message.

When Do Babies Start Smileing

baby smile on mat

Encouraging Your Baby to Smile

If you see a newborn baby smiling, chances are the baby is smiling not because he is happy. It is more than likely that the baby is smiling because he is gassy, he is urinating, or he is comfortable. It is easy to begin encouraging your baby to smile, and it is easy to keep trying to get him to smile as time goes on, too.

During the first month and a half to three months, there are many things that you can do to try to get your son or daughter to smile. Talking to a baby, cooing over her, and smiling frequently at her will encourage her to smile back. Once she does it, she will be further encouraged to smile based on your response. Likely, as any happy parent will tell you, you will be amazed and happy, and in showing your response to her response, you will continue to stroke that impulse to smile when she sees you.

There are other ways to get your baby to smile. I had a friend whose one daughter would “encourage” her baby sister to smile by using her thumbs to push her mouth into a smile-like position. Even though the younger sister would not smile as a result, the adults thought it was pretty humorous, as did her older sister. Many times, parents will tickle their baby, trying to get them to smile and eventually to laugh. There are other things you can do to help get your baby to smile; singing a favorite lullaby, making faces, using a toy to play with him, and reading to him can also help your baby smile. The best thing to do is to do your best in finding out what makes him happy. Once you have that figured out, getting him to smile is no problem. That is why many babies will smile up at their moms and dads; their parents make them happy, even when they are just looking at them.

Things to Watch

A delay in smiling is nothing to be concerned about in itself. This is true for all the baby’s milestones. It is only when a child exhibits more than one delay, or specific delays together, when there is a significant concern. Many parents, failing to see their child smiling, will be concerned for its health. When a child has not smiled on his or her own, prompted by social cues, this is one of the signs that your baby might be on the autism spectrum. However, a delay like this is something that must be taken into consideration from a broad perspective. A delay in smiling could indicate a more serious temperament or personality; the desire to smile is not there. It also could be a sign that the baby had not made the connection between happiness and smiling, but rather sees something else as a way to express his or her happiness; some babies, for example, will gurgle instead of smile.

Another benefit of going to the doctor to ask questions if you are concerned with the delay in smiling is that your doctor will likely be able to give you good resources. Many parents are concerned if their baby does not smile within the first month, and because of the various check-ups with doctors, it can be hard to know when exactly a baby smiles on average. Doctors should be able to hand out a good pamphlet or chart to show the approximation of several milestones. Being aware of realistic expectations is the first step to preventing a new parent from being worried. I know this from firsthand experience. When your baby sees other babies at daycare, it is hard to get a good estimate of where exactly your child fits in his or her development. Because of this, it is easy to assume your child is way ahead of everyone else, or to wonder if she is lagging behind.

In the event that you do have a concern about your baby’s delay in smiling, it is best to see your family doctor or a pediatrician. If there are other concerns about your child’s health or mental well-being, your doctor is the best person to be able to point you in the right direction. Finding answers on the Internet can be tricky at best and misleading at worst; having a good relationship with a doctor can really help, especially for things such as this.

When Do Babies Smile?


Who doesn’t love to see a baby smiling? Baby smiles are one of the things that makes parenting seem easier. All parents love the comfort of knowing that their child enjoys them, and that is why many parents begin to look for smiles early on. Smiling on a voluntary level should happen between the first six to twelve weeks, or the first month and a half to the third month.

Smiling easily shows parents that their baby, besides being adorably cute, is developing his social skills, working on her emotional development, and gaining insight into the world around them. Parents should know that there is a large variety of ways to make their babies smile, and eventually laugh. During the first months that they have together, it is highly likely a parent will be able to find and tap into a way to make their baby smile happily. However, it should be noted that there are things you can do if you are concerned about your baby’s development, including going to the doctor or getting support from your group of mommy and daddy friends. You will find that many concerns about delayed development will often show more than one sign; however, a close relationship with your doctor has many benefits.

As parents, we all look for a sign we are on the right track, and our best efforts (and even sometimes our less than spectacular ones) are bearing fruit. We want to see that our babies loves us just as much as we love them. We definitely live to see them smile.

When did your baby started to smile? was there any delay in you baby smiling patterns? how cute was he of she? let us know in the comments below.

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