Why Do Babies Smile?

The arrival of a new baby brings so many exciting firsts. But long before you experience your baby’s first steps or first words, you will get to enjoy your baby’s first smile. And nothing lights up a room more than an adorable, toothless grin.

I’m sure you’ve heard many times, “Oh, that’s not a real smile.” So, if it’s not real, what exactly is it? Here’s what your baby’s smile really means from birth to 12 months.

0-1 months
During the first few weeks of life, your newborn baby will display a spontaneous reflex that appears to be an intentional smile, but it is not an actual sign of affection. This is referred to as neonatal smiling. These smiles often occur while the baby is drowsy or during REM stages of sleep.

1-2 months
Watch for your baby’s first, fully awake smile at six to 10 weeks. At this age, your baby will start responding to environmental stimuli and will recognize your voice and face. He or she is now intentionally smiling at you – so make sure to smile back!

2-6 months 
Around three months, your baby will start looking right at you when he or she smiles. Your baby will respond more to face-to-face interaction and will smile when you make those funny faces. At four to six months, your baby will actually smile and look away. Since babies are learning to regulate emotions – the joy may be too overwhelming. Allow your baby to look away and then reengage with you.

6-12 months
At six months, your baby’s smile becomes even more meaningful. Your baby is now developing memory, so his or her pleasure may be greater when seeing you because he or she is aware that you were gone. Around twelve months, sense of humor begins to develop. Take advantage of this fun stage and make your child smile and laugh. Everyone might not think you’re funny – but your baby will think you’re hilarious!

More fun facts about smiling babies

  • Babies smile in their sleep from birth.
  • Contrary to popular belief, infant smiles have nothing to do with gas.
  • As newborns, boys tend to make less eye contact and smile less than female babies.

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