Baby Smiles Explained

Most people’s hearts melt when a cutesy baby greets them with a big, loving smile. But is the baby expressing a true emotional response, or is the smile simply an instinctive reflex?

Do baby smiles at different ages have different meanings, or does every smile communicate happiness and joy?

Read on to learn why babies smile and what they mean at each age, as you may be surprised at what baby researchers have discovered in unlocking the mystery of a smiling infant.

When and Why Babies Smile

Pediatricians and developmental psychologists are in consensus that true social smiling doesn’t occur until around 8 months, yet babies can be seen smiling in their sleep as newborns. While the common misperception that early smiling can result from gas has been proven false, babies still smile at each stage of their neonatal development. Basically, that magical and enchanting “happy baby face” has different meanings depending on when it occurs:

  • Birth to one month – Although neonatal babies at this stage do smile, researchers have found the smiles have no emotional content. The smiles at this stage are merely spontaneous and reflexive.
  • 1-2 months – At this stage babies begin reacting to environmental stimuli, and you should expect to see smiles at between 6 and 10 weeks. Babies at this age begin recognizing voices, and the baby hearing a parent’s voice can elicit a still developing smile.
  • 2-6 months – Babies began to look right at their parents and caregivers when smiling, as they are engaging in more direct, face to face interaction. They’ll even laugh or squeal at goofy faces made at them. And they’ll even gaze and smile, then look away like they’re purposely being coy.
  • 6-12 months – Babies at this age display a variety of smiles, with open mouth smiles indicating more happiness and glee than a closed one. By the 8-9 month mark, smiles are fully social, and are an integral part of a baby’s communication.

Regardless of age, it’s important that parents smile at their babies whenever possible. Not only does smiling at your baby help to develop and bolster their self-esteem, it helps them learn social dynamics and cues on how to express their happiness. If you have a little one who doesn’t smile much at first, don’t fret. Keep smiling, hugging, cuddling and showing affection, and let the baby respond at his or her own pace. Soon enough, she’ll be giggling, squealing, playing, and laughing, filling both the house and her parent’s hearts with joy.

For more information on what your baby's smile means, contact at (855) 797-BABY.