A child’s first smile happens, on average, about six weeks after they are born and can certainly help to make up for the sleepless nights! It is a very important milestone as it is the beginning of social interaction. 🙂 At first, it is more like a reflex but between six weeks and four months, they will certainly be smiling just to see a familiar face!
Did you know smiling AT your baby literally grows their ‘social brain’ (prefrontal cortex)? This is the most important thing you can do to start growing your child’s emotional intelligence. Your baby has been hard-wired to look at faces which you will no doubt notice when you see them paying good attention to you! And this of course, is how your baby’s head starts to change shape, as the brain grows.
For anyone who wants to know exactly HOW smiling affects the brain growth, it involves:
- the baby seeing a smile and their heart rate increasing
- a ‘beta-endorphin’ (or feel-good hormone) is released into circulation, and into the orbitofrontal region (part of prefrontal cortex)
- the beta-endorphin helps neurons to grow
- dopamine is also released at the same time which also encourages neuronal growth through uptake of glucose
If you’re interested in more about the very specifics of how early interactions shape a baby’s brain (and it is pretty scientific, so you’ll have to be very keen!), seek out ‘Why Love Matters’ by Sue Gerhardt.
More about milestones for newborns to preschoolers coming up, also featuring more on our facebook page – I raise my kids.