Your baby is born smart. Sure, you have a lot to teach your baby – how to walk, talk, ABC’s, tie their shoes…but your baby is born super smart! Think about all that your baby is born knowing how to do and it’s impressive! You get your brand new still-wet baby in your arms and near your breast, and soon this smart baby opens his mouth and starts looking for your nipple. Get this baby near your nipple, and they will know how to latch on and start suckling. Within the first hour or two your baby will probably sneeze!  Probably cough…might even pee on you!  Like a newborn systems-check….ALL CLEAR!  ALL SYSTEMS GO!  Even though they have never had air in their lungs before, if your baby is unhappy (whether it’s because they are hungry, or in pain from a gas bubble, or cold, not just feeling insecure because they aren’t being held by their mother), they will let out a loud cry to let you know that there is a problem! And that cry will tug at the hearts of their parents, compelling them to respond…because you are smart, too, and your instinct intact!

I have never met a person that would look at a crying baby and say that there is no reason for that baby to be crying. We may not know the reason…but what we do know is that if baby is crying, there IS a reason…and we never doubt that a baby will come out with the ability to cry!  They don’t have to develop the ability to cry.  They FEEL from the moment they are born…they feel cold, they feel pain, they feel lonely, they feel scared…and they show those negative feelings by crying!

Why is it such a common idea, then, that a baby will be born with the ability to be sad and therefore cry….but not born with the ability to be able to feel good and smile? There have been so many apparently well-meaning grandparents I’ve heard tell the mother, “Newborns can’t smile…it’s gas.”

GAS? Gas doesn’t make ANYONE I know smile! When is the last time you felt a gas pain and smiled? It may make you grimace….or draw the corners of your lips back…but it definitely does not look like a smile. Have you ever smiled because you had gas? Didn’t think so.

I see newborn smile all the time! It truly is not a rare occurrence. And I hear parents justifying their baby’s smile with an apology and that makes me sad. “She smiled! I mean…I know it’s just gas…but it was so cute!” Why would you assume it’s gas and not a genuine smile??

I do want to clarify that there’s a difference between acknowledging a baby’s ability to have a genuine smile….and a “social smile”. Let me explain the difference: You know when you are listening to a story and you smile in an attempt to make them feel better? Or because you’re acknowledging that what they are saying is amusing or funny? Or you smile at someone to try and be friendly and get them to like you? That is a social smile…a manipulative smile…one you create with intent and usually for a purpose of eliciting a reaction from someone else in the room. Think of how many times you’ve typed “LOL” to something on the computer and you never cracked a smile – because nobody was looking. If someone had shown you that in person, you would have indeed smiled and possibly laughed out loud…because that is a social smile meant to convey a message to those around you.

So what is a genuine smile? Do you remember that time you got good news and you were in your car by yourself and could not stop yourself! That good feeling bubbled up inside you and you found yourself dreamily smiling? In fact, you couldn’t stop yourself from smiling even if you tried! Or do you remember the time you bought someone you love something super special that you knew would make them SO HAPPY…and thinking about giving it to them made you smile and giggle to yourself, so filled with happy feelings that you couldn’t hide it?

THAT is what your baby is feeling when they smile in that first month. They don’t care how it makes you feel…they are having a visceral response to the way that THEY are feeling! And when that feeling is mildly bad, they pout. Very bad and they wail!! When that feeling is good, they will look at you with adoring eyes…and when that feeling is very good and all is perfect in their world, they SMILE! Even in their sleep (I always imagine when they smile in their sleep that they are dreaming of being in the womb – but with a breast in their mouth! They are in baby heaven!).

No amount of YOU smiling and cooing at them is what causes the reaction because it’s not about that…it’s about their very real feelings inside of them. They aren’t smiling to make you smile or show you that they are happy…they are smiling because they FEEL IT!

Gas smiles? I don’t see it…I see a furrowed brow and a grimace of upturned lips.

But when a baby’s eyes sparkle as they look up at you and their mouth smiles to spite themselves……I have no doubt in my heart that you have a happy baby in your arms!!


  1. Laura wrote:

    Thank you for validating my thoughts on this! Ellie has smiled at us so many times since day 1, and we kept saying, “There is just NO WAY that is gas–that is a happy baby!”

    PS: You’re right; gas has never made me smile like that…

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  2. mishalee wrote:

    When Axel smiles in his sleep, I’m pretty sure angels are whispering sweet things in his ears.
    Beautiful pictures Stephanie.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  3. Sarah wrote:

    This is a beautiful blog! Smiling babies are the greatest teachers on earth. The only thing they know is LOVE and that is a great thing.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  4. candice wrote:

    I agree Brooklyn smiles and has what I think even giggled in her sleep and awake…. she is a happy baby which makes me a happy mama

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  5. Julie Westover wrote:

    Happy news! I love my baby’s smile – it is so special when they smile the first time 😀 and again & again…

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
  6. Kelli wrote:

    I’m sure you get to see some of the happiest babies out there because you treat them (and their mamas) so well. Thanks for the happy post!

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  7. Jennifer Peters wrote:

    I love this! Christine is such an old soul, constantly looking around with a furrowed brow trying to figure out this world she is in, but when she smiles I KNOW it’s because she is happy. The first person she smiled at was her daddy and I realized in that moment that they have a special bond that the rest of us will never understand.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

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