Smiling is one of the first communicative responses made by babies after birth. The initial smiles seen on your newborn’s face are unintentional. However, as he advances in months, his smile becomes a medium through which he reciprocates his feelings to you.
When do babies start smiling
Babies first smile right after their birth, mostly in their sleep for no particular reason. If you see your newborn smile, do not get elated as his grin is not a result of any emotional or social response, but a mere movement of his mouth. In fact, the neonatal smile is a reflex smile in response to the stimuli received by the body, continuing for the first two months. Reflex smile in babies is a part of their survival instinct similar to any other newborn reflexes like rooting, sucking and Moro. As the baby is believed to look more pleasant and appealing while smiling, it might keep him safer from any harm .
It is even said that newborns may be smiling in their sleep while passing gas because of the relief they get [2,4, 5].
What age do babies first give a social smile
Babies or infants usually start smiling for a purpose when they are six to eight weeks old as their muscles around the face begin to strengthen .
During this time, the babies’ capacity to maintain an eye contact stabilizes with their brain gradually starting to develop. Advancement in their neuro and visual skills help them in identifying familiar faces as well as understanding behavioral patterns. Therefore at this age the baby smiles to express his happiness and the reflex smile is no longer seen then.
Reflex smiles are short-lived, occurring mostly when the baby is exhausted or asleep. On the other hand, a social smile occurs voluntarily, last for a longer time and takes place in response to any particular action or sound . Moreover, rather than just moving his lips he will involve his entire face and eyes expressively to reveal his feelings of delight [2, 3].
When will your baby smile at you
- When he is overjoyed.
- When he wants to get your attention.
- When you smile at him willingly, as a response to his actions.
- When they have had a good breastfeed.
How to help your baby learn to smile
Communicate well: Always pose a happy look in front of your baby, smiling as much as possible. Your cheerful face will make your baby imitate you and respond with a beautiful smile [6, 8]. If your child is neglected from the start then he may go on to develop an attachment disorder which will delay his smiling skills and may also hamper his future development .
Play peek-a-boo: Amuse your baby by covering your face with your hands and removing them again. This will startle the baby, making him produce his toothless grin.
Try the blowing raspberries game: The best way to entertain your kid is by blowing raspberries coupled with some funny gestures. This gesture will definitely make your infant smile. They may even go to the extent of trying to imitate the strange sounds.
Go the musical way: Sit in front of your baby, with the little ones face at a distance of 30cm from you and try singing a soothing melody to him. On hearing your warm, comforting voice, he may curl his lips, beginning to smile spontaneously .
Make strange sounds: Imitating a variety of animal and bird sounds will compel your kid to stare at you with wonder and smile contentedly. Do not overdo it as you may scare the child .
Introduce a new companion: Give your baby an interesting plaything like a showy toy car or a pretty pink doll as their companion. See the smile on their face while playing with their pal.
Don’t mind being silly: Do not hesitate in being funny to the core by making different kinds of weird faces, so that your little one responds with a cute smile to your silly tricks.
Choose a correct time: If you wish to bring in a smile on your baby’s face then choose a suitable time when he is fresh and energetic. Avoid opting for timings when he may be hungry, sleepy or fussy due to any other reason.
Infants differ from each other in achieving different developmental milestones, with those born prematurely taking a slightly longer time than others.
Autistic babies will show a delay in attaining this smiling milestone. However, it is a myth that autistic babies never smile. They do have their own way of displaying their emotions which may be prolonged than other children . Therefore, it is essential to let your pediatrician know if your baby does not smile or make any attempt to do so after the third month of life .
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