Why your smiles are important to your baby

Why Your Smiles are Important for your Baby

20 December 2021
Posted by: Chelsea

Research has shown very clearly that smiles directed at your baby can hugely help their cognitive development.

Smiles – they’re unusual in humans

The human smile is a poorly-understood phenomenon.

To begin with, in most non-human species, to pull back your lips and expose your teeth is considered a threat. It is argued that some apes smile and differentiate between smile and threat by whether their lips are relaxed and their jaws open (threat) or closed (smile). Even so, the human use of a smile is very rare and possibly unique.

Smiling is an innate instinct we’re born with. Even babies born blind and who therefore have never seen a smile to learn from will still smile automatically.

As we age, we learn that there can be various forms of smile and they’re not all positive, such as the sardonic or gloating smileor those that are closer to a sneer.

In practice, a smile usually involves not only the lips and cheek muscles but incorporates also a vast array of other largely automatic body-language indicators. Examples might include eye luminosity, forehead lines and so on. That’s how, as adults, we can often tell the difference between a sincere smile and a false one.

However, for babies, the indications are that smiles are always positive and always positively interpreted.

The effects of smiling at your baby

It’s clear that babies react very positively and usually (but not always) reciprocally towards a smile.

When they see you smiling at them, it communicates to them that they’re safe and wanted. That in turn triggers the release of comfort hormones in the baby which have been shown to help learning and overall cognitive development. Those hormones are produced in lower quantities in babies that are in a care provision environment where smiles are less commonplace.

It is equally clear that in situations where facial indications of stress are more commonplace, those hormones are found in even lower quantities and the relationship between reduced cognitive development and stress is clear.

Baby smiles affect you too

It has also been shown that care providers who smile a lot get smiles back from the baby in return.

That also triggers “well-being” hormones in the care provider, leading to a sense of satisfaction.

This shouldn’t be surprising because it all relates to nature’s way of trying to ensure bonding between children and adults in order to increase the child’s chances of survival and progress.

So, for all these reasons, smiling at your baby as often as you can is a good idea!

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