Babies are the best form of entertainment – you can just sit there and watch them sleeping all day long and you’ve had a fulfilling time.
But while the first few weeks and months of a baby’s life are filled with cuddles, coos and cute outfits, there’s no denying things get even more exciting when they start showing their personality through smiles, laughs and being able to move more than just a raised arm in their sleep.
So when do babies smile and reach these other precious milestones?
A baby will generally begin to smile at six to 12 weeks old – so this is when you need to be giving some prime tickles to introduce your baby to the pleasure of smiling as early as possible.
However, smiling won’t be a surprise to your little bundle as babies can actually smile in the womb.
The first few smiles your baby will crack will be reflex smiles as your baby tests out the new body of equipment it has been blessed with.
There will come a time when your baby wants to flash a real smile and this is when you want to be the reason, or at least there to see it.
Make sure you smile back in response to show your baby that it’s a good thing.
By the time your baby is two months old the phenomenon of reflex smiles will have disappeared, and when your baby flashes a real smile you will know.
The timing and duration of a real smile will be different, a reflex smile will happen when a baby is tired or sleeping and will be very short.
Real smiles occur in response to some stimulus like their parents face, or a sibling’s voice and the real smiles will be consistent.
The real smile will also be evident in the baby’s eyes.
What does smiling mean in your babies development?
The first real smile your baby expresses says a lot about their development.
It signals to you that their sight has improved to the point where they can recognise and distinguish your face.
The babies brain will have progressed enough to have reflex smiles under control and now they have control over how and when they smile to connect with other people.
A babies first real smile also means that your baby is beginning to recognise their emotions, and they know that their feelings matter and have an effect on those around them.
Take your baby’s smile as a ‘job well done’ sign.
How to make your baby smile
If you have seen no sign of a real smile on your babies face and you think it’s about time that they should be exhibiting this facial expression then there are some ways to humour your cutie into smiling.
Make sure you talk to them often and give them a chance to respond.
Make eye contact with your baby and smile at them throughout the day.
You need to be a clown sometimes to get that baby’s face cracking so make funny faces or noises, imitate animal sounds, blow raspberries on their belly – this is sure to crack them up.
Too much stimulation, however, will bombard them and they may look away if you are doing too much.
If this happens, take a break and try again another time.
Once you set off the baby smiling train they will keep on smiling.
Try to always reciprocate with a smile – of course, you won’t be able to hold it back because they are just so cute.
Your baby will mostly smile at their parents as the recognise their faces the most, but they will also smile at others, that is until stranger anxiety kicks in at around six months old.
After the initial smiles and the habit of smiling becomes a thing with your baby they will add their own sound effects like giggles or cooing.
By five months old your baby should be able to give an all-out belly laugh with squeals of excitement.
Every baby is different, and not seeing an early smile is not an indication that your baby is unhappy or that something is wrong they will just hit the milestone at different times.
However, if your baby hasn’t graced you with a real smile by three months old, you should mention it to your paediatrician and get their advice.
What about rolling over, crawling and walking?
Once your baby can support their own head, rolling over comes next.
Rolling over could happen as early as four months, with babies using this as a means to move around before they learn how to crawl and walk.
It could take up to the six months mark for them to really master the art of flipping from stomach to back and vice versa, seeing as your baby will need to have sturdy neck and back muscles for this.
The next stage is sitting up, and that usually comes between six and eight months – although all babies progress at different stages.
Crawling usually begins around the seven-month mark, but your baby may not start to learn until they reach 10 months.
Then it’s time for the big one – walking.
This can happen any time between nine and 12 months. It’s usually expected that they’ve perfected the art of walking by the age of 14 to 17 months.