Developmental events such as crawling, laughing, talking, and smiling vary for each child. Seeing your baby look up at you and smile for the first time is a moment that will melt your heart and stay with you forever. Babies can smile from birth; they can even smile in the womb.
A baby’s earliest smile is a reflex smile, not an attempt to socialize with adults. As babies grow, they develop more social skills and control over their movements. According to the latest research, babies develop a natural smile around 6 to 12 weeks.
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What is the science behind the smile?
Smiles are the first way your baby relates to you. If a baby is feeling insecure or stressed, there’s an increase in their stress hormones. When you and your child smile at each other, it releases chemicals in your bodies that make your baby feel happy and safe.
Different chemicals interact with a baby’s nervous system in different ways and even play a role in how the brain grows and develops. For example, high levels of stress hormones can interfere with a baby’s learning and affect their overall development and wellbeing.
Reasons newborns smile:
Babies smile for several reasons, which include:
· Reflex smile: When babies smile during their sleep or while passing gas. This is called a reflexive smile. This is the smile babies develop in the womb. However, babies do it randomly, not in response to anything.
Therefore, experts do not consider it a genuine smile. Although no one knows what triggers reflexive smiling, experts think it might happen when babies respond to an internal stimulus.
· Social smile: The most genuine smile happens when your baby is awake. This is a smile in response to contact with others, such as smiling back at a loved one or smiling to seek their attention.
These first smiles are also a key milestone in your baby’s development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that most babies give a genuine, non-reflexive smile about 2 months old.
Although your baby’s initial smiles are reflexive, be patient, and soon enough, you’ll witness their first genuine smile. As babies grow and develop, they may also smile when they are happy or playing with their favorite toy.
Moreover, your baby will be smiling all the time in response to the entertaining sounds and faces you make. Even just the sight of you can make them smile.
Why your baby’s first natural smile is considered as a sign of development:
Smiles are the first medium of expression with your child, and the smile is a building block for your relationship with your little one. Your face is where your child looks for reassuring, comforting responses and attention.
The more often you smile at your baby, the better. Each smile your baby sees sends a great message that they’re loved and cherished. Smiling at your baby is great for your early relationship with your baby. It fosters bonding and attachment, and it helps your baby feel secure and safe.
These expressions are essential for your baby’s development. Through these relationships, babies and children learn how to think, understand, communicate, and show emotions. Giving and receiving smiles are the first steps your child takes in learning how to be social and have good relationships.
Also, when your baby gets lots of smiles, it tells your baby a lot about their world – that it’s a safe, secure place where people are happy, friendly, and responsive to her needs.
You probably can’t help smiling at your baby. And, of course, seeing your baby smile at you makes you feel good too! Your baby will start to realize that moving their lips and grinning will bring them more attention from you and others.
Your baby’s brain development will advance as they becomes more in tune with you and more socially engaged with other adults and children. This increased engagement may also help them become more distracted from everyday internal sensations like hunger, gas, and fatigue.
How to encourage your baby to smile
Below are few ways by which you can encourage your baby to keep smiling at you
· Talk to them
· Sing to them
· Act excited and smile when your baby smiles or makes sounds
· Play games such a peek-a-boo
· Give age-appropriate toys to your baby, such as rattles.
· Put toys near your baby, so they can reach for them or kick them
If the baby still does not smile, it could signal a range of issues, including:
· Vision problems: Blind or low-vision babies may not see their parents’ smiles or respond to them.
· Hearing issues: Children with hearing impairments may not smile at the sound of giggles or a loved one’s voice.
· Autism: Autistic babies may not smile at caregivers or parents.
· Temperament: Some babies are shyer, less interactive, or smile less readily than others. If a baby smiles but smiles less than some other infants, it might just be the baby’s personality.
After the age of 3 months, your baby will start socializing with almost everyone they see. Of course, they’ll still have their favorites, likely you and the people who care for him most often. This early form of socializing is very important for your baby’s social and emotional development.
We understand that as a parent, you are incredibly excited to see your little bundle of joy smile at you. But remember, good things take time.
Every baby develops in their way and at their own time, so there is no need to rush. However, if your baby doesn’t start smiling at the age of 3 months, tell your baby’s healthcare provider.