Baby’s first smile

Seeing your baby look up at you and smile for the first time is a moment that will stay with you forever. Read on to find out find out what’s behind your baby’s first smiles and when you might be treated to your little one’s first proper ‘social’ smile.

When Can Babies Smile?

Wondering at what age babies can smile? Well, that depends what you mean by smiling.

During your baby’s first month or so, you may notice the occasional smile while he or she is asleep.

You also might see your newborn’s mouth widening into a grin as he or she tries to mimic your own facial expressions while awake.

However, this type of smiling isn’t the real deal yet. In other words, these smiles aren’t yet those smiles that are in response to something that gives him or her pleasure or feelings of affection.

You’ll have to wait a little longer before you see your baby flash his or her first real smile, sometimes called a ‘social’ smile. It’s actually in the second month that you’ll likely see your baby’s first real smile.

Your Baby’s First ‘Social’ Smile: A Sign of Development

It can be quite rewarding to see your baby smile during sleep, but you’ll absolutely adore the sight of those ‘social’ smiles that happen when your baby is awake and alert.

Besides being an unforgettable moment in your life as a parent – and melting your heart in the process – those first smiles are also a key milestone in your baby’s development.

Facial expressions – especially smiles – are an important means of communication for your little one, and those smiles will add to the growing repertoire of cues that you will learn to recognise, often in combination with other signs of how your child is feeling.

Just as crying or restlessness might indicate hunger or discomfort (perhaps time for a nappy change), smiling can mean your baby is content or ready to play.

To help you interpret these signs, look for others as well. For example, ‘let’s play’ cues could include smiling and any of these other signs:

  • Wide, bright eyes

  • Pursing the lips into an ‘ooh’ shape

  • Gazing at your face

  • Reaching out for you

  • Turning his or her head towards you

  • Giggling.

By about 3 or 4 months old, you may find that your baby starts to smile at the sound of your familiar voice. And as well as smiling, your baby may also start to make ‘conversation’ with you in the form of coos and gurgles.

It will still probably be months before your child starts forming recognisable words, but even now you can already see how something as simple and beautiful as your baby’s first smile is more than just a magical moment – that toothless grin is also one of the earliest steps on the road to eventually learning how to talk.

How to Encourage Your Baby to Smile

Your baby's first smile will likely happen sometime in the second month. Until then, be patient and know that eventually you will see it.

In the newborn stage, looking at your face is one of the most important ways your baby can learn, so the best way to encourage your little one to smile is to talk and smile to your little one as much as possible.

Not only that: Talking to your baby, listening to his or her gurgles and smiling at him or her helps your infant's brain grow and develop.

Here are some tips to help encourage your baby to start — and keep — smiling and develop those communication skills:

  • Smile regularly. Small babies like to imitate facial expressions, so the more you smile at your baby, the more he or she is likely to smile back. By responding to your baby's smiles and engaging with your little one in this way, you'll be encouraging his or her development.

  • Play along. Your baby may start a ‘conversation' with you by flashing a wide smile or a big grin to get your attention. Sometimes your infant might wait for you to smile at her first, before responding with a matching smile. This is your baby's way of imitating you. Although it might seem like just playing, imitation is actually an important step in your child's social and emotional development. So, go ahead and play along with your baby.

  • Try different voices and noises. Almost everything your little one sees and hears at this stage is completely new. Your baby probably loves hearing new sounds and different voices. Keep eye contact with your child so he or she has your undivided attention as you experiment with different facial expressions and noises. This makes it easier for him or her to try copying you. It also means you'll never miss out on any of those enchanting first smiles!

Keep in mind, every baby develops in his or her own way and at a his or her individual pace. However, if your baby doesn't start smiling by about 3 months of age, let your health visitor know.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • It may be possible for your baby to smile at 4 weeks but usually only while sleeping, or by chance as he or she tries out new facial expressions. Your little one may not flash a true ‘social’ smile until about 6 weeks old or even a little later.
  • After around 6 weeks of age, a baby’s smile becomes an important means of communication. It could be a response to something funny or enjoyable, a sign of affection or a way of telling you that it’s playtime.
  • Babies may not show their first real ‘social’ smiles until their second month. Your baby may smile randomly in his or her sleep even earlier than that, but these smiles are more likely to be just a reflex.

The Bottom Line

If you haven’t seen your baby’s first true smile yet, you’re probably waiting with bated breath. Keep on smiling at your baby, and eventually, when the time is right, he or she is sure to smile back.

That moment will be unforgettable, but the best is yet to come: You’ll soon learn how to make your baby smile and your little one, too, will quickly find new ways of showing his or her enjoyment with an ever-widening range of grins, coos, giggles and other baby noises and expressions.

How we wrote this article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.