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.
So, when do babies start to smile for real – like, with feeling: when do babies smile socially?
Most studies show that “social” smiles start to happen between 6 and 12 weeks after birth. This is what you’ve been waiting for!
Baby’s first smile won’t happen at the same time for every little one. But as any mama will agree, it’s well worth the wait.
In this article: 📝
- Reflex smiles: when do newborns smile?
- Why do newborns smile?
- When do babies smile socially?
- A smile is a sign of growing up
- What happens if my baby doesn’t smile at 8 weeks?
- How to make baby smile
Reflex smiles: when do newborns smile?
When do babies start to smile? According to science, they’re probably doing it in the womb.
But that first newborn smile 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 practicing 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.
Why do newborns smile?
Sometimes things like a stroke on the cheek or a sweet taste or smell can make your baby smile.
But these baby smiles can happen completely at random too – such as when they are sleeping.
But for the first two months or so, it’s not known for sure whether it’s an emotional thing or just a reflex.
Feel free to revel in those sweet first baby smiles, no matter what their cause. Who could blame you?
Why do babies smile in their sleep?
So why do newborns smile in their sleep? It may be that those sleepy smiles are in response to dreams.
Another reason why babies smile in their sleep may be due to passing gas, falling asleep, feeling comfy, or peeing.
Which is a little gross, but still so cute!
When do babies smile socially?
Reflex smiles happen only early on. They’re soon overtaken by baby’s first smiles that are social – 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.
But when do babies smile on purpose, and when do babies social smile?
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 and what gets baby smiling.
But you’ll notice the difference between a reflex smile and a real one 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 2 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 baby’s first smile is. Mamas see these things.
A smile is a sign of growing up
When baby smiles, it’s a sign of happiness or recognition. And it’s a big step in their development, too.
Why is baby’s first smile such a big deal? 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.
Baby smiling is about emotional development, too. At this point, they’re learning to express emotion and communicate.
Meanwhile, it helps them learn that their actions have an effect on other people.
If baby smiles, 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 baby smiles show your child is developing.
However, if you haven’t yet seen baby’s first smile – 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!
How to make baby smile
Keen to see that elusive baby’s first smile? Well, get your camera at the ready and try out our top tips to help see baby smiling:
- Playtime is key. For a lot of mamas on Peanut, baby’s first smile happens during playtime. That’s another win for tummy time!
- Smile at baby. One of the most effective ways to make baby smile is to smile at them. They’ll associate that facial expression with the feeling of happiness, so they’ll learn to smile socially, too.
- Talking to baby. Baby’s first smile is a social interaction, so socializing with baby is key.
- Eye contact. One of the differences between reflex smiles and baby’s first smile is eye contact, so making eye contact when talking, playing, and smiling at baby can help, too.
That’s all there is to know about when do babies start smiling, why do newborns smile in their sleep, and how to make baby smile.
Got a gorgeous snap of baby’s first smile, or waiting on the first time you’ll see baby smiling? Share it with the other mamas on Peanut!
👶 More baby milestones:
Your Guide to Baby’s First Haircut
When Do Babies Lose Their Hair? And Why?
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?
When Do Babies Get Kneecaps?
When Do Babies Grow Hair?
When Do Babies Clap?
When Do Babies Start Dreaming?
When Do Babies Make Eye Contact?
What Are the Different Stages of Crawling?
When Can Babies Eat Baby Food?
When Can Babies Hold Their Head Up?
When Do Babies Start Laughing?
Baby Growth Spurts: What are the Milestones?