When do Babies First Smile?

Mother and baby playing in the bed and smiling.

When do Babies First Smile?

Nothing makes a new parent swoon like when babies smile their first toothless smile!

The first, not really real, smile:

There is the involuntary smile, which is awfully cute, but not exactly sincere, as it is not on purpose. Even premature one-day-old babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) will smile in response to reflexes kicking in or twitches in the facial muscles. As other newborn reflexes are designed to help your baby eat (such as the rooting reflex) or protect them from harm (palmar reflex), I like to believe the involuntary smile is designed to help with bonding between the baby and the parent. Over and over again I get to watch new parents fall a little more in love every time their baby breaks out that little grin. They yell out, “oh, look . . . she’s smiling!” Whereas some healthcare professionals might say, “well actually, she’s just grimacing. She can’t actually smile on purpose yet.” I just say “Yes, she is! She loves you! Smile back at her.” Whether it is purposeful or not, it is stinkin’ adorable!

The first “real” smile:

Babies typically are able to smile voluntarily in response to something that actually makes them happy around six to ten weeks of age.

You can help encourage the first smile!

Because new babies can best see approximately ten to twelve inches from their face, hold your baby face to face in your lap. The adorable little giggle comes shortly after that. It is so important to make it a point to make your baby belly laugh at least five times per day. Just like in adults, laughing releases endorphins that boost their mood and help to form a bond with who they are laughing with. This all relates back to the importance of that early bonding and attachment between baby and care-giver. The early attachment sets the foundation for the child’s sense of security and self-confidence later on. Recent studies are finding that the early attachment is even more important than we originally thought! Early bonding and attachment to a parent or care-giver is also a predictor of future academic skills in addition to mental health, self-esteem and self-confidence.

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Here are some tips to bond with your baby, make them smile, and even belly-laugh:

  • Give your baby a baby massage. This skin-on-skin contact is so important for bonding and development.
  • Look into your baby’s eyes and talk to your baby. Tell her stories and talk about your day.
  • Sing to your baby.
  • Read to your baby.
  • Blow raspberries on your baby’s belly.
  • Count her toes and tickle her tiny feet.
  • Dance with your baby.
  • Nibble on his ear.
  • Say nursery rhymes.
  • Use puppets and stuffed animals to make voices and make her laugh.
  • Be silly. Put her shoes on her hands and put her socks on her head to make her giggle.
  • Use funny voices.
  • During bath-time drizzle water on her belly.
  • Pretend to lose her. Call her name and when she says “here I am” act surprised and hug her.
  • Play peek-a-boo (this also helps teach object permanence).
  • Hide stuffed animals under blankets and find them together.
  • Pretend she is an airplane and make her fly around the room.
  • Clap her hands together to music.
  • Clap her opposite hands and feet together (this also helps with brain development).
  • Make funny faces at her and see if she replicates the face.
  • Allow her to look in a mirror with you and make funny faces together.

There are so many milestones throughout the first few years, but don’t underestimate the importance of smiling and laughing every day. It can be easy to get caught up in child care and work and everything else we need to do every day, but try to make time for giggles!

READ MORE
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About the Author /

Dr. Aimee Ketchum is a pediatric occupational therapist and has been working in pediatrics for 20 years. Ketchum works in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at UPMC Pinnacle Hospital and lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters. Ketchum is also the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company.

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(quote by @debiandbebi)⁠
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Instagram post 17863413055589017 When they wake up in the morning and give you that big grin . . . 😍 There is nothing sweeter.⁠
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Instagram post 17862171103601373 All of these things make me happy. What would you add to your self care toolbox?⁠
I'm seriously needing some of these things tonight to start a new week. Hoping you mamas get some self care time too! 💕⁠
📷: @hallmark⁠
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#motherhoodthroughinstagram #momlife #motherhood #selfcare #selfcaretoolbox #mumlife #mommylife #metime #motherhoodunplugged #realmoms #momstatus #thatmomlife #realmomlife #momsofinstagram #momhumor #motherhoodrising #ig_motherhood #uniteinmotherhood⁣ #babychick⁣
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Instagram post 18081610903134401 Praying that your toddler let's you get to sleep this weekend. 🙏💤⁠
📷: unknown⁠
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(quote: @mommywinetime)⁠
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Instagram post 17853200368708392 SURPRISE! A little shocked, a little tired, and a LOT BLESSED. Congrats, @sarah_lit! ❤️⁠
📷: @sarah_lit⁠
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Instagram post 18073051357163780 When it comes to clamping the cord, our mottos is "what's the rush?" The blood volume in the placenta and cord at the time of birth is BABY'S blood. It's simply mid-circulation in the placenta at the time of birth. It just makes sense to leave it be and let it finish its job.⁠
No, the blood won't drain out of baby and go backwards into the placenta.⁠
No, your baby is not more likely to get sick from jaundice.⁠
Yes, your baby will still be getting oxygen while they figure out breathing, especially important if they need resuscitation.⁠
Yes, your baby will have better iron levels for the first year of their life.⁠
Look at how thick and engorged this cord still is at 4 and 18 minutes after baby was born. Just imagine how much blood baby would have lost if the cord had been clamped immediately, or at 60 seconds, 90 seconds, or 3 minutes! The placenta was expelled immediately before the 18 minute photo was taken. The pulse in the cord could still be felt even AFTER THE PLACENTA HAD BEEN DELIVERED! The cord was finally clamped and cut more than an hour after birth at 73 minutes. ❤️⁠
📷: @lawrenrosephotography⁠
Informative post and words by @bundleborn⁠
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#placenta #lotusbirth #homebirth #midwife #midwifery #phsiologicThirdStage #delayedcordclamping #optimalcordclamping #waitforwhite #whatstherush #postpartum #birth #laboranddelivery #babychick #mommychick
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Instagram post 17852665306696124 With the holiday season upon us and moms trying to make everything magical for their families, remember to stop and take a moment to take care of you. ❤️ Have a hot cup of coffee, a long warm shower and some alone time. Communicate this with your partner not as a wish but as a necessity. We must take the time to take care of ourselves to better take care of them. 💕⁠
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Instagram post 18095239591099259 After holiday feasting . . . this baby gets me.⁠ 🤣
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Instagram post 17844162355818683 I think I had a little too much turkey . . . and pie. 😬🍗🥧 #leggingsforlife⁠
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Instagram post 17990835490280335 I totally felt this way when I was pregnant. And kinda feel this way after all that turkey. 🤣🦃 Happy turkey day to all you expecting mamas!!⁠
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Instagram post 18094211479105476 I spy with my little eye the cutest turkey ever. 😍 Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Hope it's filled with love, laughter, and cuteness like this. ❤️⁠
📷: @emilyshapaka⁠
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Instagram post 17852562805720320 Loneliness is a real thing in new motherhood and I want to be sure we talk about this. It's okay to say, "I feel lonely." We normalize one another's experiences when we share the reality of our journey. It can be so isolating when we bring our small human home and our lives revolve around his/her care. We feel detached from the outside world. The monotony of new motherhood can be heavy.⁠
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Here are some tips to combat isolation:⁠
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1️⃣ Get outside when possible.⁠
2️⃣ Video chat with friends/family.⁠
3️⃣ Join a virtual group.⁠
4️⃣ Invite someone to come over.⁠
5️⃣ Find a local mom's group.⁠
6️⃣ Listen to the radio or a podcast (it's interesting how this can make us feel connected with others)⁠
7️⃣ Run an errand--even grabbing a coffee via drive-thru can feel good.⁠
8️⃣ Get to know your neighbors.⁠
What would you add to the list?⁠
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Instagram post 17867282176536875 ⁠For the week of Thanksgiving (and longer if you can!) let's focus on what we DO have instead of what we lack. The more we express gratitude and appreciate our blessings the more we recognize all of our blessings and everything we should be thankful for. 💕⁠
📷: @hallmark⁠
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Instagram post 17855722339639264 ✈️ Tips to Survive a Plane Ride with Kids ✈️⁠
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Flying on a plane with your little one for the first time can be terrifying. Are they going to cry the whole time? How will they handle the airport, the turbulence and the landing? Well we have some tips that will help prepare you for your flight with your kids. Here's what to do to have a more enjoyable experience 😊 {Link in bio!}⁠
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