When do babies start smiling? In reality, your little one was probably busy cracking a grin before they were even born. But at this point in life, smiling’s more like a reflex, like a twitch or a kick.
Maybe that’s not quite what you mean though. So, when do babies start to smile for real – like, with feeling? Most studies show that “social” smiles start to happen between 6 and 12 weeks after birth. This is what you’ve been waiting for!
The first real baby smile won’t happen at the same time for every little one. But as any mama will agree, it’s well worth the wait.
Reflex smiles: when do babies smile?
When do babies start to smile? According to science, they’re probably doing it in the womb.
But this isn’t because they’re particularly happy, or they’re finding your cute baby voice funny. Instead, it’s more of an instinctive thing. It’s like their muscles are practising how to smile.
That’s why these early grins are known as reflex smiles. They happen often when your baby passes wind or has a bowel movement. Sometimes things like a stroke on the cheek or a sweet taste or smell can set them off. But these smiles can happen completely at random too – such as when they are sleeping.
It may be that those sleepy smiles are in response to dreams. But for the first two months or so, it’s not known for sure whether it’s an emotional thing or just a reflex.
When do babies start smiling socially?
Reflex smiles happen only early on. They’re soon overtaken by social smiles – those that show a bit of real emotion. At this point, your baby’s responding to things in the world outside.
It will probably be one of the best feelings in the world to see your baby smile back at you for the first time. It can make the little difficulties of parenthood melt away as they look up at you knowing that you’re their person.
You can expect it after about 6 weeks usually. But you can wait up to 12 weeks to get that grin out of your little one. This will all depend on your baby. But you’ll notice the difference between a real smile and a reflex easy-peasy. A couple of studies point to the difference between a simple smile with the mouth (a reflex smile) and one that involves the eyes too (a social smile).
Meanwhile, others have said that a real baby smile starts with eye contact. In this case, 11% of babies are thought to smile socially at just two weeks old – while 60% socially smile by 3 weeks.
However, these probably make things a little overcomplicated. The truth is that you’ll know when your child smiles for real for the first time. Mamas see these things.
A smile is a sign of growing up
When babies smile, it’s a sign of happiness or recognition. And it’s a big old step in their development too. How come? In one way, it shows they’ve started to see and hear well enough to understand what’s going on around them. It might come with eye contact, or in response to someone’s voice. This way they’ll let you know that they can see you and hear you without any trouble.
Smiling is about emotional development, too. At this point, they’re learning to express emotion and to communicate. Meanwhile, it helps them learn that their actions have an effect on other people. If they smile, you’re likely to pay attention to them – and they remember this. Babies are just clever like that.
What happens if my baby doesn’t smile at 8 weeks?
It’s true that smiles show your child is developing. However, if they haven’t yet smiled – after eight weeks, twelve, or even sixteen – there’s no need to worry. Every baby develops at their own pace.
If they can make noises, respond to visual cues, and can make eye contact, your baby is probably perfectly healthy. They may just not be very smiley right now!
👶 More baby milestones:
When Do Babies See Color?
When Do Babies Start Talking?
When Do Babies Roll Over?
When Do Babies Crawl?
When Do Babies Walk?
When Do Babies Sit Up?
When Do Babies Start Teething?
When Do Babies Stop Spitting Up?
When Do Babies Start Cooing?