Barely a week old and you see your baby smile at you—or did he or she really do that? Can babies really see and smile at people? Before you get too excited about it, experts say babies usually don’t start socializing with a smile until they are about eight months old. In fact, babies also smile even while asleep, with their eyes are closed, which might make you more curious about why your baby smiles.
Neonatal (newborn baby) smiles are normal from birth to a month old. Some babies smile just a few seconds after birth, but these smiles are non-emotional and rather spontaneous. Often, when they are drowsy or when they’re sleeping and getting into the REM phases of sleep, babies tend to smile, according to experts. But to be sure, such smiles are subcortical in nature (below the cortex activity) and don’t mean anything emotional. And the number of times your baby smiles decrease as they grow.
Thus, premature babies are said to smile more than full-term infants!
However, at one to two months old, babies may start smiling as a response to any stimulation around them. Responses increase a bit with smiles when they get to be six or 10 weeks old, a time when babies’ brains are said to be developing more and vision is improving.
Babies may start recognizing your face, or any face that they frequently see. Prior to this, they also start recognizing voices. The baby’s smiles at this point are stimulated by auditory and visual stimuli.
If the baby doesn’t smile after three months, experts suggest that you have the baby checked by a pediatrician. At two to six months, the baby starts seeing and smiling at you. Real fun times begin then. Your funny facial expressions will be appreciated. By the time your baby reaches four to six months, the baby may start looking at you, smiling, and then looking away. This, experts say, is how babies regulate too much emotion they cannot contain for long.
Finally, at six to 12 months, the baby starts to exhibit different types of smiles that never fail to amaze people. Babies also start enjoying laughter—yours, other people’s, and theirs. And remember to respond to their smiles, especially when they get to be eight or nine months old, because babies start to communicate with smiles at this age. It is a good idea to respond to their smiles to help them relate socially well and it also helps them psychologically.
Your baby’s smiles may not mean anything at first, but be patient. As babies grow, their smiles will eventually come from the heart instead of being a mere spontaneous physical reaction.