When Do Babies Start Smiling?

Smiling Baby

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There is nothing more joyous than seeing your baby smile for the first time. It’s a milestone that all parents of newborns wait for with bated breath. It makes those months of morning sickness, achy joints, swollen ankles, and all of the discomforts of pregnancy worth it. It’s the reward you are looking for after those grueling hours of labor and delivery.

But a baby's smile doesn't come right away. In the early days when you first hold your baby in your arms, they aren’t likely to even open their eyes, let alone smile at you. It’s common to feel impatient and to wonder when your baby is finally going to turn the corners of their mouth into a happy grin.

Fear not: you baby will start smiling soon enough. Smiling is actually one of your baby’s first major milestones and is a sign that they are developing normally.

Let's look at when to expect your baby’s first smile, what to know about infant developmental milestones in general, and what to do if your baby isn’t smiling within their first few months of life.

Baby Milestones

The first time your baby smiles in one of their first social and developmental milestones. It signals that your baby is starting to understand their relationship to those around them, that they are learning to bond, and that they are responding to stimuli with emotions.

Smiling is your baby’s first venture into communication—laughing, waving, responding to their name, and making vocal sounds will soon follow.

But as you learn more about your baby’s milestones, it’s important to keep things in perspective.

When experts say that your baby should do XYZ by a certain date or age, these are just estimations. All babies are unique and hit their milestones at different points.

So, while we all want our babies to do things like break into that first grin as soon as possible, we need to remember that there is a range of normal when it comes to baby milestones.

What Age Do Babies Start Smiling?

Most babies will have their first social smile at about three months of age. However, you may notice your baby breaking into a smile even before that. And three months is just when social smiling starts—your baby will smile more frequently and for more reasons as the months progress.

Is It Just Gas?

Before your baby ever smiles at you socially (i.e., with their eyes open and in response to a stimulus), you may notice your little newborn smiling in their sleep. Some say that these smiles are just gas (and they may very well be!), but most agree that these smiles are parts of your baby’s newborn reflexes.

As the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) explains, these early smiles “start during sleep, for reasons that are not understood. They may be a signal that the baby feels aroused in some way or is responding to some internal impulse.”

When to Expect Your Baby’s First Social Smile

Between two and three months, most babies will start looking their caregivers in the eyes. They will start to pay attention to faces that they see, respond to sounds around them—and yes, they may begin to smile! These first smiles may be few and far between, but they are smiles nonetheless.

At four months, your baby's smiles may become more predictable and you may know what it takes to elicit a smile in your little one. There will be certain sounds or faces that you make that will be sure to get your baby smiling.

This is an exciting time for you and your baby, and makes up for all those sleepless nights and hours or crying you may have endured in your baby’s first three months of life.

By six months, your baby should smile often, and will even start full belly-laughing! At this point, your baby can respond to your emotions, too. Your baby will enjoy playing and games like peek-a-boo are sure to get your baby smiling.

Your baby will enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror at this age, and can even make themselves smile this way.

Can You Make Your Baby Smile?

You don’t have to do anything special to get your baby to smile. Smiling is part of their normal development and simply being a caring, loving, attentive caretaker is really all it takes. 

However, if you are concerned that your baby isn’t smiling, or you just want to show off their smiling abilities, there are a few things you can try to get that gummy grin to appear:

  • Talk and interact with your baby while feeding, dressing, and other interactions
  • React with excitement when your baby makes sounds or reacts to stimuli
  • Sing to your baby and make funny faces
  • Read to your baby
  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Notice what your baby likes and dislikes and offer them more of their “likes” to get them interested and excited
  • Use “reciprocal” play—i.e., when your baby smiles, you smile back; when your baby makes a sound, you make it too

What If You Have a Late Smiler?

Again, keep in mind that all babies are different, and follow their own calendar, not one prescribed by others.

If your baby starts smiling a few weeks past the three month mark, there is nothing to worry about. As the AAP points out, “If your baby doesn't master her movements at exactly the same pace others might, it is usually not because of any developmental delay or other problem.”

At the same time, lags in developmental milestones can be signs of a potential problem, and developmental delays are best caught sooner than later so that early intervention therapies can be implemented.

When to See Your Doctor

You should always bring up any concerns you may have about your baby’s development with their doctor—even if you are not sure your concerns are warranted.

Your doctor can let you know if there is anything to be concerned about and they can keep a watchful eye on your baby down the road.

There are some red flag signs to watch for in terms of developmental delays in a baby under 12 months of age. These include:

  • A baby who is not social
  • A baby who doesn’t look you in the eyes
  • A baby who doesn’t gesture or wave
  • A baby who doesn’t babble
  • A baby who seems to have lost an ability they once had
  • A baby who seems floppy or lacks muscle control
  • A baby who is very jittery or exhibits shaky, uncontrolled movements

A Word From Verywell

Awaiting that first smile from your baby can be exciting, but also nerve-wracking. It’s a lot of fun to learn about the “whens” and “whys” of your baby’s milestones, but try not to get too caught up in it all.

Learn everything you can about when your baby is expected to reach their milestones, but then take those dates with a grain of salt. It’s most likely that your baby’s first smile will be here before you know it!

As long as your baby is healthy and reaching milestones in their own time, try not to compare your baby to your friends’ baby, or the story other parents tell about their own babies (they may not be remembering correctly anyhow!). And as always, if you have any questions about your baby’s development, reach out to their pediatrician.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Your Baby's First Smile. Updated November 2, 2009.

  2. Wusthoff CJ. Movement Milestones: Birth to 3 Months. American Academy of Pediatrics. Updated July 2, 2020.

Additional Reading
  • Milestone Moments. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Updated November 11, 2020.

  • Your Child's Social and Emotional Development. Stanford Children’s Health website. Updated November 11, 2020.