The Body Language Series No 5 - I'm so Happy!
Updated: Jul 7, 2019
There are few things that are as rewarding or heart-warming as your baby’s first smile. It is amazing and something you will remember for the rest of your life. Younger babies, up to a month old, are often seen giving a lopsided smile when they need burping, or sometimes they will smile when surprised by a voice or a tickle. This reflex smile is the first stage of smiling in babies and is more of an instinctive reaction rather than a true smile because of happiness.
Human beings are the only creatures on the planet who use smiling as a form of communication. In most human cultures it is a signal of friendliness and salutation. Humans are a little different, for the rest of the animals on the planet, bearing teeth is interpreted as a sign of aggression and challenge.
The next stage of smiling is known as the ‘general smile’. At around four weeks old, your baby will have mastered the art of smiling and will often give a wide, delighted beautifully gummy smile. Gummy smiles are the best! This is so satisfying for parents, but at this stage a baby will probably respond this way to any friendly adult face. By now, a baby knows that active smiling is important, but has yet to realise that it is critical to discern at what, or who, he smiles at.
One out of every 2000 babies is born with a tiny tooth already showing. These early teeth are called ‘natal teeth’ and usually only one will appear at the front of the mouth, though in very rare cases, two teeth are visible. Natal teeth are poorly rooted and will wobble around freely in the little one’s mouth. This as fortunate as they won’t hinder breastfeeding.
The final stage of smiling is called ‘the specific smile’ and this is the smile parents wait impatiently for. This is the big one, the real deal. Between four and six months old, a baby will begin to reserve his smiles for only those people he’s close to. Big, open smiles might now only be reserved for his parents & close friends. When they see a stranger, who perhaps a few weeks ago would have been greeted by the non-specific general smile, will now find themselves on the receiving end of a blank stare. This can be a very rewarding feeling for parents who may feel as though they have entered an exclusive club and have been ushered into the VIP room.
Of course, adults have an additional stage of smiling, the diplomatic smile. A form of general smile often used the camouflage their true feelings. The ‘fake smile’. It’s good to know, babies are above such things, and will scream at any unwelcome guests, or frown all day of they want to. Good for them.