Why Do Babies Smile? Smiling and Early Development

smiling baby
Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Why do babies smile? There is nothing more wonderful than seeing your baby smile. You feel so filled with happiness and love seeing that smile. Just as babies developmental milestones in crawling and walking for example there are different stages or milestones in how babies develop their smiles.

One of the first questions pediatricians ask when they are assessing newborn and infant development is whether your baby smiles. When do babies start smiling? Babies smile from birth. They smile spontaneously during the newborn period. They also smile in their sleep. These early smiles are not emotional but a subcortical response from their brain. They do not smile because of gas, which is a myth.

By six weeks to two months of age your baby will smile purposefully at you and others around her. This is called a “social smile” as opposed to the spontaneous smiles she did earlier. She is now becoming aware of the environment around her. She is more alert. Your baby smiles in response to your voice or music.

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Both music and your voice are cortical stimulation for your baby. In fact, many pediatricians encourage parents to start their babies in music class because this cortical stimulation helps with brain development in babies. At this age your baby will look into your eyes when she smiles and you will probably want to melt. They often freely smile at everyone around them.

At this stage, they have one type of smile. By the time babies are five or six months, they have a variety of smiles depending upon why they are smiling. They also develop stranger anxiety around this time, and no longer smile at everyone including strangers.

At around seven or eight months, they begin to smile and interact socially. Their smiles are brightest when they are with mommy, daddy, or their caretaker. They smile in response to your love and affection, which is most important for their overall growth and development.

Studies have shown that babies who were born premature – for example, with special needs – will often overcome their delays when mothers or caretakers spend a part of the day looking into their eyes with feelings of love, which these babies respond to with smiles.

Imagine, then, what all your wonderful love and affection does for your baby’s smile and emotional development!

babysitter with baby
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gina lamb-amatoGina is a general pediatrician and developmental pediatrician in Manhattan, NY. She has a masters in child therapy and works with a child psychologist performing office and home consultation for newborns and parents, office and home developmental assessments, school consultations and parent child playgroups where play and art along with baby massage and other techniques are used to help parents bond and support their child’s development. She is the mother of a beautiful daughter who is the joy of my life.