By about six weeks, most babies are able to crack a smile. It might sound like a cliché, but before this, their faces may appear to be smiling but this is more likely caused by a windy episode that is making their mouth contort! However, as well as encouraging a smile to bring joy to proud parents, engaging communication at this early stage with your child, is an important part of developmental stimulation.
If your baby was born prematurely, don’t expect this milestone to happen until about six weeks after his full-term due date, though some babies do start to truly smile a little after a month.
In her book, ‘The Baby Development Test’, Dr Dorothy Einon notes that a baby’s first smiles (from about four weeks) happen usually when he is asleep. She believes that you can trigger a smile during slumber if you make a gentle, high pitched sound near to him.
Although early smiles are still more reactive than anything more meaningful, by the time your baby is a couple of months old, he can really enjoy expressing himself and interacting with a near, friendly, playful face.
If you smile and chat to your baby in a simple but welcoming way, you will get back some gleeful reactions. By four months, this is accompanied by giggles and by six months you can enjoy some early sessions of peek-a-boo.
Do this by covering your face first and don’t stay hidden for too long. Once your child has got used to the game, use a light scarf and tentatively try putting it over your baby too. Don’t leave him covered too long, and if he shows distress at being covered, just stick to playing peek-a-boo through your fingers.
By six months, or once your child is sitting up, he will be able to remove the scarf from your face himself, which raises even more independent delight.