When do babies start smiling?

For countless mums and dads, their baby’s first smile is one of the most precious moments of their parenthood journey that makes all the sleepless nights worth it.

Their first smile is also an important sign confirming your baby’s developing social skills.

But, when do babies actually start smiling? Here’s everything you need to know.

When do babies start smiling?

Technically, babies start smiling involuntarily quite early on. You may have even spotted your baby smile in some of your ultrasound pictures!

However, these smiles aren’t conscious smiles that reflect social growth. They are reflexive ones that happen as their facial muscles twitch.

Your baby’s first fully-fledged social smile will likely happen sometime between weeks six and eight when they have more control over their faces and have started being able to give social cues.

Lesley Gilchrist, a registered midwife and the co-founder of My Expert Midwife, explained it to Metro.co.uk, saying: ”A true smile, as an intentional social gesture, is part of normal neurological brain development. Most babies start this “social smiling” at around six weeks of age and this can be great feedback for parents after a broken night’s sleep or when feeding through a growth spurt.

‘Parents do report that their baby smiles at them sooner than this or that baby smiles whilst asleep, but this is usually a response to digestion – wind or a gassy tummy.’

The easiest way to tell a social smile from an involuntary one is that involuntary smiles tend to be specific to the twitches of the mouth, whereas a social smile sees the baby engage their whole face.

It is very likely that your baby’s first smile will happen when they see one of their parents.

After that first time, your little one will start to master the art of smiling and do it more and more as time passes.

They will also learn that smiling creates social bonds through seeing the reactions their parents give when they smile.

But, it’s vital to remember that every baby is different. So, your baby’s first smile can happen earlier or later than that.

Lesley Gilchrist says: ‘Babies should be smiling at around eight weeks old, however premature babies tend to smile a little later.

‘To encourage smiling, choose a time when you are both feeling content, warm and safe and try talking in a higher-pitched tone as their immature middle ear can pick up higher, lighter voices much better than deeper tones.’

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