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Your Baby & Toddler - - Your Newborn -

I SWEAR I SAW MY TWO-WEEKOLD SMILE IN HER SLEEP, BUT MY HUS­BAND SAYS IT WAS JUST A RE­FLEX. WHO IS RIGHT?

The first few weeks with a new­born is a lot of hard work and there will be days when it seems pretty thank­less. Each day is filled with feeds and at­tempts to set­tle your lit­tle one to sleep and cope with lev­els of cry­ing that you prob­a­bly did not an­tic­i­pate. It is ex­haust­ing and so it’s with great an­tic­i­pa­tion that you will await that first lit­tle smile.

Your baby’s smile is a very im­por­tant mile­stone – it’s her first real so­cial sig­nal. For the vast ma­jor­ity of ba­bies the first so­cial smile emerges by six weeks. But for some ba­bies it does emerge a whole lot ear­lier than this. You will find your­self de­bat­ing for weeks whether that lit­tle flicker of the lips is in fact a smile.

In the hours and days im­me­di­ately af­ter birth, new­borns have the amaz­ing ca­pac­ity to im­i­tate a fa­cial ex­pres­sion. This usu­ally oc­curs when your baby is in the calm alert state and mak­ing eye con­tact. In this state, many ba­bies im­i­tate a fa­cial ex­pres­sion by stick­ing out their tongue in the same way mom is or lift­ing their lips in a smile like way to im­i­tate mom or dad. While not a so­cial smile, this is an early re­sponse to an­other per­son and so is a so­cial sig­nal.

Af­ter a few weeks, your baby will start to pro­duce lit­tle smiles as she sleeps or even dur­ing awake times. Many of th­ese smiles, es­pe­cially early on, are not so­cial smiles but oc­cur in re­sponse to in­ter­nal sen­sory in­put. We be­lieve this is the body’s way of pre­par­ing the fa­cial mus­cles for smil­ing. If your baby smiles while sleep­ing or while look­ing into space – this is prob­a­bly a re­flex or re­sponse to a wind rather than a so­cial smile.

There will come a time, of­ten much ear­lier than six weeks, that you could swear your baby is smil­ing. She is ly­ing calm and alert on your lap, mak­ing eye con­tact and you smile or make a noise and she smiles back – just a small up­turn of the lips. In this case, this is cer­tainly early smil­ing and is a pre­cious so­cial sig­nal.

You will know for sure that your baby is smil­ing when: She is awake, in the calm-alert state. She is mak­ing eye con­tact with a per­son or a fas­ci­nat­ing toy. Her lit­tle lips curl up in re­sponse to the vis­ual or sound stim­u­lus.

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