Even newborns seem to smile when fresh out of the womb, but in reality experts consider these only reflex smiles. Reflex smiles represent a survival instinct on the baby's part. Similar to suckling, a baby smiles to make itself more appealing to adults in an attempt to keep safe. Reflex smiles start anywhere around birth to three days and can last until the child has reach two months old, according to Babble.com. As babies develops, they move closer and closer to flashing a real smile.
The First Real Smile
A baby's first real smile doesn't usually occur until six to eight weeks after birth. This learned smile is in reaction to stimuli within the environment, including reactions to a parent's face or seeing something the baby likes. A baby's first smile is an indicator that they are:
- In the beginning stages of figuring out more complex human behavior.
- Advancing more in their overall development, including crucial social skills.
- Realizing the impact their smile has on getting a parents attention.
While parents might have some difficulty with distinguishing between a reflex and an actual smile, tell-tale signs include the use of the entire face by the baby when smiling, which also extends to the eyes. Parents should keep in mind that most babies seldom develop at the same rate, with some infants smiling as early as four weeks old and others not cracking a genuine grin until at least 12 weeks, according to Babble.com.
How to Make a Baby Smile
Parents who have any concern with their baby not smiling can always try to encourage their baby to smile by playing games with them. Some good games parents can play with their child to encourage smiling include:
- This Little Piggy: A favorite of babies everywhere, "This Little Piggy" requires parents to play with their baby's toes while reciting the popular nursery rhyme.
- Peek-a-boo: Using a blanket, burping cloth or other obstruction, "Peek-a-boo" requires a parent to "hide" by covering his or her face. Parents can help their baby develop important facial recognition skills as they pop out and say "peek-a-boo."
- Kisses: Blowing kisses on a baby's neck, face or belly represents another way for parents to get their child to respond with a grin.
Other Baby Smile Tips
While it might seem like it is taking a long time, parents should expect their baby to eventually smile naturally. Some things for parents to keep in mind while waiting for their baby to smile include:
- If a baby looks beyond a parent while smiling, it is only an attempt on the baby's part to avoid overstimulation.
- Premature babies tend to take longer in their development, even up to a few extra months.
- Each parent should spend time with his or her baby. Each uses different styles of play, which can help a baby develop faster.