When do babies smile

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When do babies smile and what does it really mean

When do babies smile? Maybe you've seen a grin on your little man (or little woman) as they sleep after one of their marathon crying sessions at three in the morning? But is that really an attempt at communication, such as, "I have gas" or "I may need to be changed and I'm smiling because you have to do it?" Or, is it simply a spontaneous act due to any number of factors?

Young ones may grin for a variety of reasons, from the feeling of a full stomach to a soothing sound in the room. There's a wide range of time tables for a baby's first grin, but as you'll see below, there's much to know and understand about the entire developmental process in the first place. Some people have even argued that infants have grinned, even before birth, thanks to 3-D sonogram images.

So, below, we'll delve into both the facts and conjecture as it relates to your newly grinning infant.

A History of Childhood Development

Dr. Daniel Messinger is an associate professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University of Miami and has written many different research papers on infant smiling. According to Messinger, infants do not usually start "social" smiling until they are around 8 months of age. As with anything, a variety of different factors can cause this to happen sooner (or later) than the 8 month date. Obviously, infants will develop at different speeds.

During the first month of their lives, little ones may grin during times of drowsiness or REM stages of sleep. There's no emotional communication involved during this month; these smiles are spontaneous and will decrease as they mature.

At Approximately 2 Months

Between 6 and 10 weeks may be the time in which you see your child's first "awake" smile come into play. This is normally the time in which infants will start to respond to environmental stimulation, as well. With their eyes and vision improving, infants can recognize a parent's face.

In addition, they may hear music or the sound of a mother or father's voice, and respond with a wide grin. According to the Mayo Clinic, newborns at around the two month time period (or even earlier) have been known to place their first grin on their face. This is thanks to an increase in social interaction skills during this time.

2 to 6 Months

It's important to note that one should see a doctor or health care practitioner if your child has not started smiling by three months. For most parents, at two to three months, this is when they will see their infant look right at them when grinning.

In the 4 to 6 month time frame, infants will be learning to regulate their emotions, as they will start to grin but then look away. Sometimes, it's too intense a feeling to keep smiling, so that's why they will stop and look away. Simply, reengage in play mode once the child looks back at you; you've given them the time they need to cool down and now it's back to playful smiling and fun.

6 to 12 Months

Here, the parent will get to see a variety of grins on their child. According to Dr. Daniel Messinger, an open mouth one shows more joy than a closed one might. In addition to the grin on their faces, laughter will usually come into play, as well. It will be about social situations and communication practices now as the child begins to learn the ways of the world.

Thus, when do babies smile can be a tricky question. Different infants progress at different rates. But, for the most part, there are general milestones listed above which can help a parent to understand what he or she should be seeing during those particular months of growth.

Resources: Why Babies Smile. When Do Newborn Babies Start to Smile?

Above photo attributed to JodyDigger

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