Pregnancy is hard. Labor is hard. Postpartum healing is hard. What’s it all for? To meet that sweet little baby. And baby’s first smile is a great reward.
Even better than the first smile is the continuous rain of smiles baby provides after.
When does baby smile?
Contrary to popular belief, babies are able to smile even before they are born. The catch is that it’s not intentional. It’s just them testing out their muscles, called reflex smiling.
It doesn’t make it any less cute though. That first smile you see, even if it’s not intentional, will be the cutest thing.
The intentional smile will be even better.
The change between reflex smiling and social smiling occurs around 2 months. Each baby hits their milestones at different times.
So for some, they social smile earlier while others will social smile later.
I honestly don’t know when Sara made the transition. It happened without me realizing it. I loved all her smiles. It didn’t matter if they were real or not. 😀
If you’re trying to tell whether your baby is smiling at you, or just reflex smiling, timing is key. Reflex smiles are usually shorter and occur at random.
They are most often seen during baby sleeping. Intentional smiles are longer and in reaction to something, like seeing a loved one’s face or hearing a familiar voice.
To encourage your baby to smile, talk to him or her often and smile often yourself. Babies are good at mimicking and learn to smile from you.
Squeals of delight and fully belly laughs can be expected by 5 months.
What’s in a smile?
When babies are able to intentionally smile, it means they’ve hit a few milestones. To start off with, baby’s eyesight has gotten well enough to see and recognize your face.
Baby’s mind has also developed enough to understand that smiling is a way to communicate happiness and love.
Does it really take 2 months?
This section is an update from Feb 1st, 2019. I’ve come across some new information.
Studies are being conducted that suggest babies are able to social smile before one month of age. Even though the research has been around for a while, not much of it has been done.
Because there is a lack of research, most people, even text books, still go by the two month mark.
Some day, we may acknowledge that babies are able to social smile earlier.
What if baby doesn’t smile?
For the first three months, it’s normal if Baby doesn’t want to smile. It just means he or she is a more serious baby than others. Babies are people too and have their own temperaments.
But if by 3 months, baby still hasn’t smiled, you should speak with your health care provider.
A big concern many parents have over their child not smiling is that their baby is autistic. At three months of age, autism cannot be diagnosed.
Babies have to be at least 18 months before autism can be diagnosed. And some autistic babies do smile. So smiling is not a good sign to use for determining autism.
A more likely cause of a baby not smiling is an eyesight problem that needs to be addressed.
Another issue associated with autism is vaccines. I’ve written about the supposed association if you’re interested.
Getting to see your baby smile for the first time is groundbreakingly adorable.
Do you remember your baby’s first smile? How about when they transitioned from reflex smiling to social smiling?