A baby's smile is a magic moment that all parents are looking forward to seeing, but you will have to wait around four or five months to see your baby properly laughing.
Laughter, like tears, is one of our primary forms of communication. A baby's smile goes through different stages of evolution, from the first fleeting smile to when they start laughing out loud.
Stages of a baby's laugh
During their early weeks, babies' smiles are a reflex action. They are not a voluntary response to anything and occur primarily when they are asleep. It is not until around a month that their smiles in response to external stimuli can be considered as a genuine social expression. They usually smile when they see a familiar face but also when they see someone they don't know.
From four or five months, they move from smiling to laughing, which manifests itself as noises and gurgles. They start to find jokes made by people close to them funny, such as being tossed in the air, being tickled or playing peek-a-boo. They sometimes laugh for no apparent reason at everyday things that seem funny to them.
After six months, smiling starts to become a selective action and they no longer smile at people they don't know. They recognise familiar faces perfectly and reserve their smiles for them.
By seven or eight months they start to laugh with satisfaction. They laugh out loud when they feel happy and are having a good time. They interact with those close to them, such as parents, siblings or grandparents, because they feel insecure around people they don't know.
From the age of one they find a lot of things funny. They understand a little more about the world around them and laugh a lot at anything that is unusual, such as a clown nose on their parents or other sorts of jokes. They smile openly when greeted by someone they know and start to understand the effect that their laughs have. They want to join in on any game or joke.
Laughing and smiling are social actions that reflect a baby's well-being. They have important health and developmental benefits, both physically, because of endorphin release, and psychologically. If you notice that your baby never laughs, it's best to take him to the paediatrician to rule out any problems.