When will your baby smile for the first time? How can you encourage them to beam?
Undoubtedly one of the most special moments of your baby's early life is when they smile for the first time. It's a momentous event that's enough to make any parent go weak at the knees but when will your baby share their first smile and do they really know what it means?
When will my baby share their first smile?
Amazing as it sounds it's actually possible that your baby had already started 'smiling' before they made their entrance into the world. Detailed ultrasound images made possible by advancing technology have actually captured infants smiling in-utero. However, while your newborn may appear to be smiling this is more of an automatic reflex than a 'proper smile' and generally involves a mouth only movement. You're likely to see these automatic smiles when they have wind, are about to drop off to sleep or are napping and while they're no doubt exciting you've got something even better to look forward to soon!
What about their first 'real' smile?
Your baby is likely to share their first real smile with you when they reach 6-8 weeks of development. By this time they'll be able to look you directly in the eyes and smile with their whole face rather than just their mouth, giving you a real heartwarming treat. At this early stage you're likely to find that your baby reserves their smiles for familiar objects and people so for a while you and your partner (and maybe a favourite toy) get to enjoy this treat alone.
When will they smile and mean it?
Your baby's first smiles mark an important step in their development as while they've been communicating with you through cries and touch up until now, it's the first time that they can relate to you positively.
Over the coming months you'll start to notice that your baby begins to smile more often, at more people and events. It's by doing this that they start to build the important foundations of the social and emotional skills they'll rely on to interact with others as they grow up. Their increasing ability to maintain eye contact coupled with their growing attention span and increasingly capability to coordinate events with the responses of the people around them only encourages them to smile more.
However, while from around 2-3 months of age your baby will be able to smile at you and mean it, it's not until roughly eight months that they'll grasp the ability to purposely smile with the intention of making other's around them smile too.
My baby isn't yet smiling, should I be worried?
It's important to remember that all babies develop at different rates and as long as your baby is communicating with you in other ways you shouldn't be concerned. If your baby was born a little early it's likely that they won't start smiling until 6-8 weeks after their full term due date so this is something to consider too. However, as ever if you're in any way concerned it's always best to check with your health visitor or GP if only to reassure yourself that they're developing as they should and give you peace of mind.
How can I encourage my baby to smile?
While your baby will only smile properly when he or she is developmentally ready you can help to make this step easier for them. Newborns are innately social creatures so they love it when you hold them, talk to them, engage their attention and try and hold their eye contact. So, the best thing you can do to help your baby learn to smile is just to smile, chatter and interact with them as much as possible. This will give them something to model and help to encourage them to share a real smile with you as soon as they're able.
If you've already experienced this magical event why not share your stories, tips and 'guaranteed smile' tricks with other members on the AskBaby forums?