Whats The Difference Between Reflex Smile And Social Smile
If your nugget is right on the cusp of that real-smile window and gives you a little lopsided grin, you might wonder if its a reflex smile. Well, look for context clues. Is your baby looking at you? Are they alert? Does their smile look symmetrical? These are all signs youve been blessed with your first social smile. Because true smiles are a social activity, baby will want to engage with you theyll probably try to hold eye contact and/or the smile until they get a reciprocal smile from you.
Newborn Smiles Aren’t Just A Reflexscientists Are Finding Babies Can Respond To Social Interactions From Birth
Very few people can resist smiling at a newborn babysignalling positive emotions, such as joy and interest. Of course, this is especially true for new parents. One study found that new mothers looked at their 16-hour-old babies 80 percent of the time and smiled at them 34 percent of the time.
Sometimes newborn babies even smile back, creating a magical moment for the parents that is often ruined by someone pointing out that the smile can’t be real. Even textbooks tend to regard neonatal smiling as a reflex rather than an actual expression of joy and happiness. But is this really the case?
Up to the second half of the 20th century, the behaviour of newborns was considered mostly reflexive. Scientists assumed that newborns had a limited ability to feel and express emotions, and did not have enough social experience to interact with their caregivers.
It was even believed that newborn babies couldn’t feel pain in the same way as adultsmeaning they were sometimes subjected to painful surgical procedures without analgesia. It wasn’t until the 1980s that medical professionals realised that the stress of the pain actually led to life-threatening shock and complications.
Is It A Reflex
Baby smiling in sleep may be reflexive at times, but your smile will most definitely be responsive, as you stare at your little creation and marvel at how even the simplest things bring a smile to your heart.
Science continues to study the mechanisms behind those precious sleep smiles, but for now weve got some basic information that gives us a general idea about why baby is smiling in sleep and what you might be able to do to enjoy those moments more .
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The Reason Babies Smile
Parents grin like a goofball when looking at their little champ or princess. When they smile back, it warms our hearts to think that they love us just the same!
But those first few cute smiles are most likely not because your baby is happy to see you. Sorry!
Baby smiles happen for a variety of reasons. Here are the three most common reasons for your little ones happy face.
The First Smiles Are Reflexive And Involuntary Acts
As we mentioned earlier, these actions performed by the baby in the womb are considered to be reflex actions. That is, they are an immediate response to a stimulus, which in the case of babies is usually a feeling of internal well-being. Unlike many of us, its very likely that babies are actually not aware that they are smiling so were talking about an involuntary movement of their muscles, like when they kick or suck their thumb.
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Smiling And Infant Development
Reflex smiles simply mean that the muscles in the babys face work normally.
In the early weeks of life, babies try out a wide range of expressions. As they develop relationships with caregivers and deeper social connections, they begin to smile when they are happy or to imitate a caregivers smile.
Children who do not smile or who do not smile at caregivers may have a developmental issue.
Smiling can also be a reflection of culture and the environment. A 2012 study looked at smiling in infants between 6 and 12 weeks of age.
The study compared infants from families with many face-to-face interactions to those whose families had fewer face-to-face interactions.
Mothers and babies from both groups smiled at one another for similar lengths of time when the babies were 6 weeks old. By 12 weeks, babies and mothers from the community with fewer face-to-face interactions smiled and imitated one anothers smile less.
This suggests that babies take smiling cues from their family and culture and that babies who experience more frequent face-to-face interactions may smile more.
Baby Sleep Cycle: Why Do Babies Laugh In Their Sleep
Well, firstly, did you know that as adults, we too laugh in our sleep? Perhaps you would have, in your half-asleep stupor, heard your spouse chuckling in their sleep.
There is no clear-cut reason why babies laugh in their sleep. But there are a few theories as to why your little one is enjoying a giggle or two while sleeping.
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Understand The Baby Sleep Cycle Better
Babies have a much shorter sleep cycle compared to adults. In case youve forgotten your sleep cycle, this is how adults sleep.
Our sleep cycles last about 90 minutes each, during which we move through five stages of sleep. The first four stages are non-rapid eye movement sleep, while the fifth stage is rapid eye movement sleep.
For babies, the baby sleep cycle only lasts about 30-50 minutes. This gradually increases in length across childhood.
How To Stimulate Laughter In Your Child
- Remember to be talking to your baby A LOT!
- Be animated, let them see your face well, how you enunciate, how you speak, how you emote.
- Babies love to watch faces, expressions, hear words and songs so get right in there with them!
-Kathy Murphy, Pediatric Physician Assistant and Lactation Consultant with SimpliFed.
The crux of the issue is that babies can start laughing as early as 2 months old. They will continue to laugh more frequently and with purpose throughout their first year. Every child develops at their own pace, but any worries should be directed to a pediatrician.
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How To Make Your Baby Smile
As your baby becomes more aware of their environment, it’s easy to catch them smiling at one object or the other, or simply expressing joy that you are there and present with them. Your baby smiling in reaction to events is also a good way to observe that their senses are working properly as they make use of them to become more conscious of their environment.
These moments can be incredibly wholesome, so it’s understandable to want your baby to smile often. While it’s certainly okay if your baby doesn’t smile as often as you’d like them to, here are some ways that might generate more grins from your baby:
- Engage with your baby during interactions like feeding, dressing, and bathing.
- Read to your baby.
- Make funny faces at them.
- Match your baby’s reactionswhen they smile, return a smile to them.
- React with enthusiasm when your baby giggles, sucks, burps, or otherwise responds positively to their environment.
Why Do Newborns Smile In Their Sleep
You asked, and Im answering. But get ready because Im about to blow your mind. YOU can smile in your sleep too. And laugh!
I know this based on research, and Ive seen it with my own eyes. My husband is a big sleep talker. He also laughs in his sleep, most recently the other night, and yes, he smiles in his sleep.
The same is true with babies.
Babies will smile reflexively without it having any reactionary meaning to a person or item. In wakeful hours and even while sleeping, your baby or toddler may pass gas and smile.
No judgment, but honestly, I sometimes smile too after that. I mean, its relieving.
Sometimes babies exhibit sensory responses to smells or tastes. So your baby may smell your perfume or lotion as you hover by the crib and instinctively smile because she knows that smell, and it makes her feel good.
In sleep, though, its kind of hard to discern what is causing the smile. Some say its the dreams theyre having. Or even angels visiting . But most researchers think that smiling or even laughing during active sleep is simply a reflexive action that is involuntary.
In other words, they have no control over it.
So, while it COULD mean that theyre smiling in reaction to a memory from their day or subconscious streams of pleasant thoughts, more likely, their tiny bodies are just reflexively smiling or even laughing for no reason whatsoever.
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Why Is Smiling So Important
A smile is much more than just a way to express happiness, its also a crucial part of your babys development. As the baby begins to socially smile, it shows that his or her vision as well as hearing is working.
It also shows that their brain is developing and neuro skills are advancing. As babies grows, they will begin to learn how to identify and recognize the people around them. Social smiles last for much longer, and are responses, not reflex.
What Happens If My Baby Doesnt Smile At 8 Weeks
Its true that baby smiles show your child is developing.
However, if you havent yet seen babys first smile after eight weeks, twelve, or even sixteen theres no need to worry. Every baby develops at their own pace.
If they can make noises, respond to visual cues, and can make eye contact, your baby is probably perfectly healthy.
They may just not be very smiley right now!
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When Do Babies Smile On Purpose
Youve probably heard that 6 weeks old is the most common answer to when do babies start smiling, but these are reflex smiles, and by 2 months those will disappear. That said, every baby develops at her own pace, and its not unusual for baby to take until the three-month mark to smile on purpose, Goldenring says. How can you spot the difference between a reflex smile and a baby social smile during those first few weeks? See if you can drag your eyes away from her adorable upturned mouth for a moment and look into her eyes, Goldenring suggests. When baby is giving a social smile, shes also engaging in eye contact. A baby social smile also happens when baby is awake, and will likely look less lopsided and more symmetrical than a reflex smile. Its also longer she wants to connect and will hold it until she gets feedback in the form of a smile or eye contact from you, Goldenring says.
Lets Smile About Science
Of everything, its the reflexive smile that has the most science behind it and seems to indicate that babies are literally born with the ability to smile. Theyre not smiling at you in their sleep, and theyre not necessarily responding to anything, but the smile is there. Scientists have noticed that infants typically smile most during the REM stage of sleep. This is the stage of sleep where dreaming occurs. Dreams and rapid eye movements occur during this stage of sleep, and its possible that your little bundle of joy is smiling about a dream theyre having.
Less scientific is when baby is smiling in sleep because of a physical event going on, such as passing gas. Whether this falls under responsive or reflexive smile is up for debate, but one thing is for certain: Babies sometimes do smile when theyre passing gas in their sleep. There are a lot of emotional developments going on while baby is sleeping, so this can trigger one of those absolutely adorable baby smiling in sleep moments. Those moments are shared between infants and parents alike, all over the world, sometimes for the first time, sometimes for the millionth time, but always for a heartwarming time.
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How Do I Make My Baby Laugh For The First Time
Parents can choose between two avenues to make their baby laugh. The first requires letting go of inhibition and just being silly. Playful voice changes, funny noises, using facial expressions one might expect from a mime or clown. Dont worry. Babies dont have the manual dexterity to hit the record button on a cell phone and all of this will fade from their memory before they can talk. So ham it up.
The second option is to elicit laughs through playful and loving touches. Kisses to the hands and feet tend to work well. And so does lightly blowing air across a babys skin, or brushing them with light touches.
Just keep in mind that its easy to startle or overstimulate a baby. They are still working on processing all of the sensory information that surrounds them. Its a fine line between playful startling and straight-up scary. And if they start to get agitated from too much physical contact, give them an opportunity to wind down before they get too upset.
What If Baby Doesnt Smile
Its a question I get asked all the time in my practice, and its one I tell new parents not to worry too much about, especially in the first few months, Goldenring says. Your baby will likely be smiling at 3 months. But if baby doesnt smile often, that doesnt mean anything is wrong with him. Just like adults, babies have different temperaments.
If baby doesnt smile yet and you are concerned when do babies smile, remember that its far more important to observe babys level of engagement with the world. Regardless of babys smile status, by 3 months old, baby should be communicating with you, other caregivers and even strangers via eye contact and vocal expressions . If babys not doing any of that by 3 months, bring up your concerns with your pediatrician. Often, a parents concern is that if their baby doesnt smile, that means he or she is autistic. But autism isnt something that is diagnosed in infancy, Goldenring says. Some autistic babies smile some dont. But not smiling or engaging is something we want to check out, says Goldenring, adding that occasionally, a young baby doesnt smile because they may have a vision problem that needs addressing.
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When Do Babies Giggle And Laugh
Youll have to wait a wee bit longer to hear the heavenly sound of your baby laughing: around 12 weeks or so. Obviously, its well worth the wait. Besides, once your baby starts smiling at you, youll be totally obsessed with that for a while. Itll make the time fly by until they bust into their first giggle fit.
In full disclosure, as much as youd like to think that your baby is laughing at your jokes, thats likely not the case. But dont be discouraged! Even if they dont understand your jokes over the changing table, smiling and giggling mean that their brain and vision have matured enough that they can see and recognize your face.
Also, dont be worried if your baby isnt laughing around the second month, right on target. Some kids are more austere than others, and child development happens differently for everyone. That said, if your infant isnt smiling or giggling by six months old, you might want to talk to your pediatrician.