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.
My baby was still in the womb when I saw him smiling. Now, I am reading that this is not a smile but just a reflex. This might be true, however, I will always remember that smile. So experts believe you can categorize the reflex as a smile only when the nervous system matures and that is between 1 and half months to three months. This sounds too theoretical to me. I saw smile ib my baby’s face when he was still few days old.
Yes, reflex or not, seeing your baby smile while still in the womb would bring so much joy to parents. How often can you see a baby do that? I had five babies and none of them smiled when still in the womb during an ultrasound. So yes, it’s a source of great joy 🙂
I have a ten months old baby boy. The first time I saw him “smiling” was when he was 30 weeks. I was so happy to see him smiling on the computer screen that I wanted to express my feelings loudly, however, I could not do that because I was in the doctor’s office. sadly, when the doctor handed us the ultra sonogram pictures, there were no smiling pictures. The first smile is etched in my heart.
There will be moments with our kids that will remain etched in our hearts forever, moments that could make us smile when we lovingly think of our kids when they’re all grown up.
I think this is te cutest post I have ever read un my short teen life
BABYS ARE THE BEST THING EVER (when they are not crying) hahahah I’m so in love with this, I even felt happy just reading about a baby smiling hahah
Baby smiles are really important to us as parents in the sense that we get to feel the warmth and happiness in them. Whenever I am carrying a baby, I always try to make the baby smile for the smiles make me happy as well.
I don’t think anyone can resist a baby’s smile. It could melt any heart.
Yes, when they do cry or wail, it’s a different story altogether, haha.
I don’t know smiling have such effects on babies, I was thinking that it’s more of an adult thing but reading the information in this article opened my eyes to more benefits of encouraging one’s baby to smile more often by engaging in silly plays that would make them laugh. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful piece of information, it’s definitely going to be helpful.
You’re very much welcome, Emmaz. It’s true – a baby’s smile benefits both the baby and adults 🙂 So yes, we should always encourage babies to smile and laugh. And when they do laugh, it’s contagious, haha.
I’m well aware that babies have reflexes while in the belly and it tends to put some smile on their face but what I’m completely sure is that not any baby has ever been born with a smile on the child’s face, in fact all of them cries immediately they come out. Although there are some babies who don’t cry and nurses would tap them to ignite crying. It seems a baby crying at birth is a routine expected to occur.
You are actually correct, a baby crying at birth holds much significance for the doctors and nurses that delivered the baby. My mother actually told me that my kid sister refused to cry out loud when she was born and the nurse had to spank her buttocks twice and the whole hospital was graced by her deafening cry.
What your mom said about a baby’s cry after birth is true. Experts say this is important to gauge the baby’s well-being after birth, also if it’s adapting to its new environment (outside of the womb), etc. It also ensures no secretions are stuck in the baby’s air passage 🙂
yes.there are many evidences that baby smile even at birth,,or even sooner..as it was documented and captured during ultrasound..and it was happened during last trimester of pregnancies..
i was fascinated when i saw my baby smile during my ultrasound.i guess he knows we see him.
Yes, it’s highly likely the baby is kind of aware about what’s happening. A fetus could feel its mother’s emotions so he/she may have sensed the excitement during the ultrasound.
Baby smiles is one that we shouldn’t underestimate as long as his development is concerned. Just like you said, the smiles will always help the baby to have that sort of self-esteem that will help in the future. Also, I agree with you that there is no need to panic when our babies don’t smile at the early months. The reason is that some of us developed at a slow rate as well.
Yes, that’s right. A baby develops at its own pace. All babies are different and their development stages may vary. Also, a baby doesn’t have a very good vision yet during the first few weeks so he/she may not be able to respond yet as expected.
That’s true about the vision. I could recall vividly that my kid sister can’t see well when she was just 5 weeks old and even when she is kept in the bed when no one is close, she doesn’t cry. I’m pretty sure that it is the same reason that she doesn’t truly laugh at that age even when you try to make her laugh.
Yes, I believe so, too, Henrywrites. At a few weeks old, they still can’t clearly see people’s faces. This is probably why they are not able to respond the way we want them to.
This is just such an adorable post.
I remember when my oldest was born, she smiled at me right away. I know all the explanations.,”It was gas,” etc. I don’t care. That was my baby girl’s first smile.
She’s now 7 years old and smiles every day.
True! A smile is a smile. For parents, that’s it, nothing else. And it brings a glow and an unexplainable happiness in our lives.
Truly happy for you and your ‘always smiling’ daughter 🙂