The first time a baby smiles back at a parent shows an early milestone. Later baby smiles also begin to reveal positive connections to favorite things.
As the parents reinforce this behavior, it becomes more common. Every bit of evidence, practical and scientific, shows that smiling at one another stimulates healthy brain development in babies and emotionally rewarding moments for parents.
Know as “serve and return,” this early declaration of a baby’s love is designed to bring happy smiles to everyone! After several weeks of life, your baby’s smiles provide the fuel that you need to get through a long day, and the previous night, of parenting.
Baby Smiles Tell You A lot
Between eight and ten months, your trained eyes will notice that a particular smile from your infant signifies the opening of a new era of communication.
From the first days of life, your baby has loved to look into your eyes. During the first weeks, he placidly looked at you while you talked, sang, and smiled. Soon he began looking at you intentionally and smiling – even giggling.
During the first six months, you caught your baby’s eyes, smiled, and said his name, and then he smiled back. He smiled in reaction to you.
Around eight to ten months, your baby will add a new twist. Start to watch for times when he looks at an object, smiles at it, and continues to smile while looking up at you. It seems so elementary and natural. However, the link that your baby makes between an object and you while smiling shows a new social awareness.
He might be communicating a couple of things. First, he might share his joy or appreciation for the object with you, as if saying “Isn’t this great!” Or, he could be quizzing you, “Isn’t this great?” Either way, he initiates a smile that ties you and a common object together. With a smile, your baby expands your relationship by including the things around you.
Now the door has opened for you to start to share the objects that you love. Look at a favorite flower, smile at it, and then while still smiling and look at him. In doing so, you have affirmed that you know how he is speaking to you and shown him something that is special to you. These communication links happen naturally over and over again.
Your awareness of your baby’s smile will nurture your joy in parenting.