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When babies smile…

… parents feel their heart melt – and the sleepless nights and the exhausting day-to-day routine suddenly seem worthwhile. A baby’s first smile is an eagerly awaited event and a truly special moment. Even though baby’s first attempts at smiling may be unintentional, the moments when we think we can see a smile on baby’s face are a blessing.

Reflex smile

The smile that we see during the first weeks of a newborn’s life is a reflex smile, caused by an instinctive tensioning of muscles that makes it look as if baby is giving a little smile. This happens mostly when the newborn is asleep. If you are lucky, you will be able to observe this expression on one of your ultrasound images even before the birth.

Social smile

There are no hard-and-fast rules as to when a baby will start smiling intentionally. Many babies will first start giving a “proper” smile that also involves the eyes when they are around five weeks old. From now on, they will beam at anyone who strikes them as friendly.

Specific smile

A baby’s specific smile is usually reserved for their parents or a handful of other people they know well. Most babies start giving specific smiles when they are around five months old. These smiles are particularly expressive and happy. Your baby now recognises your face and the faces of his or her prime carers and reacts to them specifically.


There is no need to teach your baby how to smile – smiling is an innate ability that will develop all on its own. You also won’t be able to coerce a smile. Although funny faces, tickling and funny games will help, you will only get a smile out of a baby if they really like what they see! In fact, this honesty makes a child’s laughter one of the invaluable things in life that money just can’t buy.