It’s been a topic of debate for decades – can babies smile from birth? According to some experts, what looks like a smile during the first few weeks is actually just a reflex. However, others claim babies learn to smile while they’re still in the womb. So, what’s actually true? Could your little one really be smiling at you, or is it really just a case of gas reflex?
Can Babies Smile In The Womb?
According to some pediatricians, babies have shown to smile while they’re still in the womb. So, when you see your newborn smiling, you’re not imagining it, their facial muscles are developed enough to create a smile. However, before you get too excited, it’s worth noting this type of smile is known as a reflex smile.
So, what does that mean? Well, unfortunately it means the people who have told you “it’s just gas”, are probably right. Reflex smiles are basically an instinct, similar to the sucking and rooting instincts newborns have. There’s actually a theory that babies have a smile reflex to make them look appealing; in turn helping to keep them safe. Whether this is true or not, nobody really knows.
According to experts these reflex smiles start right from birth and can last until your baby is 2 months of age.
Ok, So When Can You Expect A Genuine Smile?
Genuine smiles occur when your baby’s nervous system and brain have matured. According to experts, this means their first smile would occur anywhere from 1.5 to 3 months of age. This is also referred to as social smiling – when baby can smile as a way to connect to others. They will start to smile as a way to show they are happy, content or excited.
So, how can you tell the difference between a reflex smile and a genuine smile? Well, reflex smiles tend to be a lot shorter. They also occur at very random times, during sleep or when baby is tired for example. Genuine smiles last longer and occur as a response to something such as seeing your face or catching sight of a toy they like.
You’ll be able to see a lot more emotion if it’s a genuine smile.
Why Encouraging Smiles Is Important
Once your baby has started properly smiling, it’s actually good for their development if you can encourage them to smile more. Research has shown that babies who smile more, develop a lot more self-esteem than those who don’t. It’s also important for their brain development. Of course, it’s also wonderful for you too as nothing can beat the feeling of your baby smiling back at you.
The good news is, there’s plenty of ways you can encourage your baby to smile more. Talking to them as much as possible and allowing enough time for them to respond is one of the simplest ways to encourage more smiles. However, if you’re looking for the most effective way to get your baby to smile, making silly faces and noises generally goes down well.
Babies love anything silly, so although you may feel a little self-conscious to start with, being as silly as possible is sure to get a smile, and if they’re old enough – maybe even a laugh! Avoid trying to get a smile when baby is hungry, it’s just not going to happen! Hungry babies are fussy babies, more inclined to cry and frown than smile.
One thing you should keep in mind, is that sometimes babies can become overstimulated. So, if you notice your baby is smiling but immediately turning away, it could be a sign they need a little smile break! While it’s adorable to see them excited, being overstimulated can quickly cause them to become fussy and upset. So, give them a break and go back to smiling later.
Should I Be Worried If My Baby Isn’t Smiling?
If your baby still doesn’t seem to be smiling by the age of 2 months, don’t panic! Each baby is different, and some develop at a much slower speed than others. The truth is, genuine smiles can take anything from 4 weeks to 4 months to develop.
The reason many parents worry if their baby still isn’t smiling by 2 months, is because it can be a sign of early autism. However, what you need to remember is this is actually pretty rare, especially if it’s the only symptom they have. So, if by 4 months your baby isn’t smiling, but they are making eye contact and being generally vocal, there’s a chance they just aren’t naturally smiley.
However, it’s important you talk through your concerns with your pediatrician or doctor. They will be able to assess your little one and determine whether there is a problem.
So, can babies smile from birth? Absolutely! Although it is considered a reflex smile, it’s still a joyful sight to see. However, once those real smiles start coming, you’ll easily be able to spot the difference between those and the reflex smiles of their earlier days.