Baby

When does baby smile?

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?

Baby smiling
A little 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?

Little elf baby smiling.
Little elf baby smiling.

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.

Cuteness abounds

Two babies smiling
Two babies smiling

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?

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Tim
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Great article thanks for sharing! My family is expecting a new addition very soon and I can’t wait for the first smile to come 🙂

Mike
Guest

I love this article. I have 4 grown kids but I can remember the first time each of them smiled! It was one of those moments that stay with you forever.
One of my kids did not smile voluntarily for over 4 months. She is a perfectly normal teenager – with a beautiful smile. I guess what I am trying to say is don’t worry too much if they don’t smile when you think they should. Enjoy them as they are and soak in every moment you have with them—–they grow up fast

Brian Whelan
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Nice postings, you seemed informed on the subject, website is outlined nicely, can’t really see any to fault, nice work!

Anna
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Baby smiles and giggles are some the sweetest and purest moments we experience in life. It does make all the hardship easier to bear! Looking forward to seeing my newest addition’s smile in June.

Matiss
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Matiss

Hey, Nicole!

I have to admit that I can’t really recall when was the very first time my daughter smiled, she’s a year and 3 months old now.
I do, however, remember one of her smiles in particular, which was very soon after she was born.

It’s one thing to see it in pictures. It looks cute. But it’s completely another to experience it in real life.

I wish everyone to have that experience someday!

Cheers and Have A Great One!
Matiss

carol
Guest

A baby’s first smile is one of momma’s “never forget” moments. What a joy that smile brings. Such a cute way to communicate with little darlings. I get concerned when I don’t see that smile, even when I do all the babbles.

Priya
Guest

I remember when my children were babies and they smiled for the first time, it was the most sweetest moment of my life! I forgot all the pains of pregnancy and birth , just like you mentioned in your post. I was also told that if the baby smiles when they are too young, it is probably the wind! I find baby giggles very sweet as well.

Heather
Guest
Heather

I love the bit about autism- I didn’t know that people falsely associate autism and not smiling!
Sara’s smile is just the cutest.