Your Baby's First Smile Will Come Sooner Than You Think -- and No, It's Not Gas!

smiling baby

Of all the momentous first-year milestones new parents look forward to, baby's debut smile has got to be the sweetest one of all. There's nothing to make your heart feel like it's going to explode right out of your chest like the sight of that first gummy grin -- but when can you actually expect it to happen? (And are those early smiles really just "gas," like your grandmother claims?)



To find out more about this heartwarming developmental step, we spoke with American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Avril Beckford, MD, FAAP. Our first question: Are those first smiley faces really due to rumbly tummies?

"I don't think it's gas; I think it's just a happy feeling that comes over them and it's a beautiful thing," Dr. Beckford told CafeMom. 

"That first smile is the most magical moment ever, and it's so important."

That said, all early smiles aren't created equal. "There are two different types of smiles in a newborn," Dr. Beckford explained.

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In the first month or so of your baby's life, those oftentimes sleepy smirks are generally what's known as "spontaneous smiles," or expressions that aren't a reaction to any sort of external stimulation. And while experts have traditionally claimed that these smiles have nothing to do with emotions and are instead simply triggered by the random firing of neurons in the brain (which would explain why these smiles so often happen when baby is sleeping), Beckford believes there are exceptions to this rule. 

"There are guidelines and textbooks and then there are those babies that just defy the odds," she said. 

The next type of grin your little one will flash, however, is definitely the "real" thing: A "social smile" comes from the brain's emotional center and is usually in reaction to mom or dad (or even a big brother or sister).

"The first social smile usually happens between one and two months of age when they're really recognizing their mother and changing their expressions in response to primary caregiver," said Beckford.

And if it doesn't happen by two or three months (accompanied by eye contact), Beckford recommends bringing it up to your doctor. But don't worry too much -- there's a lot you can do to help your baby put on a happy face.

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"There's much we as parents can do regarding early childhood brain development," said Beckford.

"From avoiding stress during pregnancy and the first year, to taking time to be engaged and make eye contact as opposed to being distracted. Just smiling, touching, and holding will enhance social development. And reading to your baby -- from day one!"

One thing's for sure: All that cooing and cuddling and one-on-one time is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, too!


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