Some babies smile as young as one week old, or even the day they’re born but those “sleep smiles” (dubbed that because they usually occur as baby’s falling into a deep slumber) aren’t really because your baby is happy (even though we’re sure she is!). No one quite knows why or how they happen, but researchers have found that spontaneous smiles usually occur during periods of REM sleep (you know, those deep sleeps!).
The first social smile (baby flaunting her gums because she’s happy) doesn’t appear until six or eight weeks of age because the brain needs time to mature. “Smiling is really a high-level skill,” says Debbie Thompson, RN, MS, PNP, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Your baby first has to recognize something -- your face, your voice -- and then attach meaning to that sound or image. The resulting social smile is different because it’s a response to external stimulation, not internal stimulation that causes early “sleep smiles.” So when your baby looks at you, eyes wide open and flashes you a grin, you can be sure it’s a real smile!
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