When Do Babies Smile for the First Time?

    Updated 14 April 2020 |
    Published 28 June 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK
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    Imagine how special it’ll be when your little bundle of joy smiles for the very first time! It’s OK if sleepless nights and dirty diapers have got you feeling down, because you’ll soon be rewarded with one of the most precious baby milestones ever.

    When do babies start smiling? 

    Between late night breastfeedings and sheer physical exhaustion, you could probably use a pick-me-up. Fortunately, at just 2 months, your baby’s already on the verge of developing a social smile that lights up a room.

    Why is it such a big deal? Smiling tells you a lot about your infant’s developmental progress.

    • It means their understanding of human behavior and interaction is improving.
    • Once they learn how to smile, they’ll also quickly figure out how to use it to get your attention.
    • It’s a strong indicator that their neurological development and communication skills are on track.

    When can babies smile on purpose?

    Believe it or not, babies can be seen making various facial expressions even while still in the womb.

    You may have witnessed your newborn smiling in their sleep, but at this early stage, it’s most likely the result of passing gas! It might also happen when they’re sleepy, getting cozy, or peeing.

    Between 6 and 8 weeks, your infant develops a more heartfelt, social smile. Chances are, your pediatrician will ask about it at their next checkup so be sure to keep an eye out.

    How to encourage your baby to smile

    It’s the earliest lesson your child will learn about the importance of emotional connections and how their behavior affects others. So the simple act of smiling has a key impact on their self-esteem, not to mention their brain development.

    At the 2-month-mark, smiling should be a regular occurrence. And there’s certainly no harm in encouraging them to do it as often as possible. Just take the following things into account:

    • Timing:

    A tired, hungry, or sick baby isn’t going to be in any mood for smiling. This isn’t the time to be playful with them. Tend to their immediate needs for rest, food, or TLC instead.

    • Positioning:

    They’re likelier to crack a smile when they’re ideally positioned and held face-to-face. A 2-month-old’s vision is at its best when you’re no more than a foot away. If you’re halfway across the room, don’t count on getting any kind of reaction.

    • Greeting:

    Your infant tends to respond very well to warm, enthusiastic greetings. An understated approach rarely does the trick. Raise your energy level when interacting with them, as well as a wide, open-mouthed smile and a cheerful, expressive tone.

    Why your baby might not be smiling yet

    There are a number of possible reasons your child isn’t up to smiling yet, and you really shouldn’t worry. If you still find yourself becoming anxious though, remember the following things:

    • Your newborn won’t necessarily respond to your first attempts. Mutual smiling requires a little warming up, so if you’re feeling frustrated or disheartened, take a break and try again later.
    • If they smile past you, without making direct eye contact, it’s not a cause for concern. When they’re very young, eye contact can be overstimulating and even overwhelming, so they’ll look at you askew instead. In time, they’ll be able to look you squarely in the eye.
    • Babies born prematurely take longer to start smiling, and might require a few extra weeks to a month. However, once they’ve caught up, they’ll be grinning from ear to ear!

    Your little one’s very first smile is something you’ll never forget. As they grow and develop, be sure to take every opportunity to interact and play with them. It can have an enormous impact on their future social skills and emotional well-being.

    History of updates

    Current version (14 April 2020)

    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK

    Published (28 June 2019)

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