They spend nine months in the womb and their first month is lived as a fairly expressionless lump, so when you’re gifted with that very first smile from your baby the hard work and sleepless nights all suddenly seem worth it. Whether you’ve made a funny face or noise, or they just got a glimpse of the family dog, this first smile is one that you’ll never forget.
A baby’s first smile is a good indication that they’re developing their own cheeky personality, and it’s the sign their social skills are progressing too. However, these tricky little babies can have a range of smiles that they deliver and not all of them are the real deal.
So how can you tell when your baby is smiling at you or just having a reaction to wind?
Why Do Babies Smile?
No parenting experience is complete without at least one person telling you that your baby’s new smile is all because of wind. Sure, it might look just like your baby is smiling right into your eyes, but the unfortunate reality is that there’s some truth to the wind theory.
Babies usually don’t begin to smile socially, or on purpose, until around a month of age, and even then it can take a few months to happen regularly. If you’re seeing a smile before then, there’s a good chance it can be for one of these reasons.
- Gas or wind
Although this old wives’ tale might sound unusual, it’s possible that your baby’s early smiles are due to gas or wind being felt in their little tummies.
There’s a good chance that your baby smiled even while in the womb, and this usually occurred as part of a natural reflex when they were sleeping.
The innate reflex that makes babies smile is believed to be part of an evolutionary process in which the baby makes themselves more appealing in hopes that their caregivers will keep them safe.
As babies get older and begin to smile socially, their smiles have more purpose. A study even found that the main reason babies aged four to 17 weeks smiled were to get their mothers to smile back, which makes this amazing moment even more amazing.
How to Help Your Baby Smile
If you’re eager to see that gummy smile for yourself and don’t want it to be wind-related, there are a few ways you can help your baby develop their first smile. Just as it is with all things baby, timing is everything. Choose a time when your baby is relaxed, energised, fed, and calm before you attempt doing anything that will get them to crack a smile.
Different babies will react different ways to stimuli. Some babies might find high pitched sounds particularly entertaining whereas others will enjoy it when you pull strange faces. Have fun in experimenting with ways that get them smiling, and you’ll find yourself smiling as well at just how weird you’re prepared to make things.
Distance is important too, so depending on your baby’s age there will be limits to how far they can see. Try first to have your faces around 30 cm apart, and move back or forward if you think you need to. The best way to encourage smiling from your little one, though, is to smile yourself. (It is amazing how many mums say that the first smile they see from there baby is while she is breastfeeding!)
Show your baby exaggerated and warm smiles whenever you can, to not only illustrate how it looks but to show them that they make you happy.
What Comes Next?
Thankfully for parents, these smiles are the start of a whole range of wonderful and interactive social gestures your baby will make. Many parents mark the very first social smile as the start of a wonderful relationship with their baby where they truly started to develop a personality. From here, there are so many great ways your baby will find to interact with you well before they start speaking their first words.
After the initial smiles, babies may begin cooing, which is their own wonderful way of speaking. Try to have a conversation with your baby, and take turns with speaking back and forth. Although they’re too young to understand, it’s great for them to hear the different tones in voices and see your mouth moving in weird and wonderful ways.
Each baby develops at different stages to the next, so try not to compare your little one to any others. For those parents truly concerned their baby might not be meeting a developmental milestone, make a point of seeing your doctor or child health nurse for a second opinion. If you’re eager to learn more about baby’s milestones or the exciting journey of motherhood, check out the rest of the articles on Peachymama here.