A simple smile from you can make your baby feel safe and secure. Smiling at your baby can also boost his brain development.

Why smiling is good for your child

Most of us can’t help smiling at our babies every chance we get. The urge to make them smile back can keep us busy for hours.

Smiling at your baby is important because it:

  • plays a part in bonding and attachment 
  • helps your baby feel secure and safe
  • helps your baby develop and learn about the world.

Your child reads your face and uses your facial expressions as a guide to her world. When your baby gets lots of smiles, it can tell her a lot about her world – that it’s a safe, secure place where people respond to her needs, for example.

Smiles are the first building blocks for healthy relationships. And healthy relationships are crucial for your child’s early development. Through relationships, children learn how to think, understand, communicate and show emotions. Giving and receiving smiles are also the first steps your child takes in learning how to be social and have good relationships.

And, of course, seeing your baby smile at you makes you feel good – and it’s good for your brain too!

Smiles are very important early positive experiences. Smiles teach your child a lot about himself, and his world, when he’s too young to understand words.

The science of a smile

Smiles and frowns are the first way your baby relates to you.

When you and your child smile at each other, it releases chemicals in your bodies, which makes you both feel happy and safe. On the other hand, if a baby is feeling insecure or stressed, there’s an increase in the levels of stress hormones in that baby’s body.

Different chemicals interact with the baby’s nervous system in different ways, and even play a role in how the brain grows and develops. For example, high levels of stress hormones can interfere with learning and affect overall development and wellbeing.

The smiling baby flowchart (PDF doc: 173kb) shows some of the important things that happen as the result of a simple smile. The scientific side of smiling has been investigated by researchers looking at body chemicals and brain activity.

No smile is wasted

It’s worth remembering that a simple smile is one building block for your relationship with your child. Your face is where your child looks for reassuring, comforting responses and attention.

Not every single response you give is vital, but the more often you smile at your baby, the better. Each smile your baby sees sends a great message.


Bonding with newborns: parent stories


In this short video, parents share some of the joys and challenges of bonding with newborns. Parents describe some of the ways they bonded with their baby, beginning with eye contact, smiles and other facial expressions.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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