One of the greatest joys of motherhood is to see your newborn smile for the first time. All the sleepless nights, morning sickness and newborn stress seem to go away at the sight of your infant’s first smile. The first few weeks of a baby’s life are like watching a sweet, sleepy lump, and waiting for some response or recognition. Then, with one glorious smile, you see the baby transition into an irresistible little person.
The truth about babies’ first smiles
Babies begin smiling a long time before they are born. However, before they turn one month old, the glimpses of a smile you see on your baby’s face are just a reflex to ‘gas’. These smiles are the body’s reflex testing system to make sure that everything is working fine. There are also other times where a baby may show a glimpse of a smile: when they’re falling asleep, if they’re peeing or when they feel comfy and content.
Soon enough, however, your baby will flash the first real smile at you. This smile will be a sign of the baby’s growing social, emotional and visual skills. Your baby will really smile for the first time during weeks six to eight (some may be as early as weeks four to six). Most probably, the smile will be in response to something special: the baby recognising you or your partner. This smile will use the baby’s full face and not just their lips.
As a parent, you should encourage your baby to smile because it’s important. Smiling helps babies develop their self-esteem and brain development. More smiling practice and seeing people’s reaction to their smiles lead to the baby adding sound effects like coos and small giggles.
How to coax a smile from your newborn
There are many small steps you can take to help your baby along the journey of a first smile:
Choose a time when the baby is relaxed to get a smile. Hungry and sleepy babies are generally and understandably less inclined to smile.
Smile at the baby, cuddle, and play and talk as often as you can. When talking to your baby, give them time to respond. Make frequent eye contact to encourage communication.
Hold your baby in your arms and bring your faces close to each other. Remember that at this point in their growth, babies see best at about 20 to 30 centimetres away.
Give your baby a wide smile and use the sing-song, warm voice that babies love hearing.
Do not be afraid to act silly. Try making funny faces and sounds, imitate different animal sounds and behaviour, blow raspberries on the baby’s belly, and maybe even play a game of peek-a-boo to push the baby’s smiley button. Do not overdo it, because if babies are overstimulated, they’ll simply look away and lose interest.
Contrary to popular belief, newborns are not spoiled by receiving more attention. In fact, babies who are given more parental attention and love tend to develop faster, have more developed brains and be more sociable. So, if you cannot wait to see your baby’s first smiles anymore, snuggle away and smile to let the baby know they’re loved!
When to call the doctor
You may be anxious to see your little bub smile, but there’s no need to stress if you do not see a lot of early grins. Babies hit different milestones at their own pace and time, which means that it’s completely normal for babies to take a few extra weeks. However, if your baby hasn’t smiled or grinned by the time they are three months old, mention it to your GP or paediatrician and seek medical advice.