Nothing is more rewarding and heartwarming for us as parents than seeing our baby’s first smile.
When we are waiting for this toothless grin so desperately, any new grimace that appears on their face for us can be interpreted as a smile.
But is it really an honest expression of joy and happiness that a smile is meant to be?
Do they really react with a smile to gas? After all, a little bit of gas can provide serious relief from miserable pain!
Take a closer look at what’s hiding behind the baby’s smile while passing gas.
Why Do Babies Smile As They Fart?
The expression that we often see on a baby’s face when they pass gas is actually a primitive reflex of their face muscles – a reflexive smile. Reflexive smiles are not considered real, sincere smiles that parents long to see. That’s because they occur randomly, often without any reason. The social smiles will come later, and they are always a response to someone they truly love, like their parents. These smiles are the first attempt for babies to interact with their parents and develop a strong connection. And later – to manipulate parents into smiling at them even more.
1. Social Smile Vs Reflexive Smile
As a starting point, let’s discuss unconscious smiles and genuine expressions of contentment in babies – social smiles.
1.1 Reflexive Smile
The early “smiles” that you can see on your baby’s face are, in fact, reflex smiles.
As a matter of fact, babies start reflexively smiling in the womb around the 23rd week of gestation. And they carry on doing this for another 4 to 8 weeks after birth.
Some studies show that premature babies smile even more than full-term babies.
Now, reflex smiles are primitive impulses causing twitches of facial muscles. They occur randomly and have nothing to do with emotional responses to something pleasing.
Often, they aren’t intentional and respond to any external stimuli.
It is yet another involuntary reflex that a baby is born with, much like the moro, sucking, or rooting reflex.
So, for parents, a reflex smile means that the baby’s facial muscles are working as they should. In other words, be prepared to see your baby practice a wide range of expressions during the early stages.
*** As a side note, I discussed various newborn babies’ reflexes in my post Can Newborn Babies Swim?
Research shows that a reflexive smile can be triggered by stroking the baby’s cheek or introducing sweet tastes and smells. Often, newborn babies were caught smiling while sleeping, pooping, and – you guessed it – farting.
The reflexive smiles look completely different from social smiles. It is very much a quick grin with a closed mouth. And rarely involve eye contact.
1.2 Social Smiles
A baby’s first social smile usually occurs during the second month of life.
Social smiles always happen as a response to the surroundings. Primarily to familiar faces and voices of the baby’s parents.
During the social smile, the babies are fully alert and physically engaged.
They smile with their whole face – with big mouths widely open, bright and shiny eyes and focus on your face.
And this is the “real”, intentional, and heart-warming smile you are after.
Once you see a few of those genuine smiles, you will be able to see the difference with a “gassy face” straight away.
Now, a baby’s smile is indeed a crucial milestone and indicator of healthy development of social-emotional awareness.
Furthermore, some babies are more smiley than others – just like they have different personalities. Some babies are simply shyer than others. And that is totally normal.
However, it might be concerning if your baby turns three months and isn’t trying to smile socially. Even when you tried really hard to engage in face-to-face interaction.
Therefore, speak to your baby’s doctor because a lack of social interactions may indicate several issues. These include:
- Autism – as autistic babies usually have difficulty developing social-emotional engagement with others.
- Vision or hearing problems – because they may not see your smile or hear your voice.
Baby Smiles Provide Clues to Healthy Development – Science Nation
1.3 Smiling Because They Found Something Funny
Yet another type of baby’s smile is related to their sense of humour.
Research shows that babies as young as 5 months old may laugh if they see something absurdly funny! Even if no one around them is laughing or if they are alone!
2. The Power of a Baby’s Smile
It may be hard to believe, but babies are clever little influencers.
By the age of 4 months, they can control their parents’ behaviour and feelings.
Let me explain what I mean.
So, it is not only you who tries to get the baby to crack another grin. Babies, especially those with well-developed social interaction skills – are doing the same thing to you!
A study conducted at the University of California shows that babies time their smiles to make their moms smile. To prove this theory, scientists used sophisticated methods involving a baby robot.
It works like this:
There is a hidden agenda in babies. It is to get their mothers to smile for as long as possible while they would smile for only a few seconds. How cheeky is that?!
The goal of mothers is to maximise the time spent in mutual smiling. Therefore, they would continue to smile until the baby would flash a beam back at them.
Whether or not babies are conscious of this intention and what its purpose of it remains debatable.
Furthermore, babies quickly get a handle on controlling their parents’ behaviour. That’s because the parent’s emotional state will depend on the little one’s behaviour. Meaning – if the baby is crying, parents are less likely to smile. And if the baby gazes into your eyes and smiles – parents, naturally, will smile at them back!
The way these tiny, innocent creatures can wrap their parents around their fingers so easily is just amazing!
3. Final Few Lines
Parents are often misled into interpreting their baby’s facial [removed]fart-face) as a genuine smile.
Technically speaking, babies don’t really smile as they fart. This reaction is just one of the involuntary reflexes they are born with.
Also, it is not true that they smile because they experience a tickling sensation in their bottom during passing wind, or they are feeling relieved from passing gas ????
It won’t be until they are 6 weeks old that we will see the true expression of their affection. And you will be able to spot the difference between these smiles from miles away!
Related Post ——> Why Does My Baby’s Gas Smell Bad?