Your baby’s first hello in the form of that disgruntled wail in the delivery room cloaks parents with relief, and it is only a preview to all the other first-parents will anticipate in the coming months. Documenting these milestones becomes a hobby for mom, dad, and the family. However, what many parents consider a first smile, word, or step may be deceiving.
It is common for parents to mistake facial expressions for smiles in the first few days of infancy. Social smiles, a first step on the trajectory to adult conversations, don’t actually develop until about eight weeks of life. Any smile seen in the first few days of birth is probably just gas. Initially smiles may take place in sleep as babies respond to internal stimuli, but smiling is reinforced when infants view and respond to faces.
Babies also begin to coo and giggle around this time. Parents can play a role in the development of a baby’s “glass half-full” outlook by attending to this baby language. A child may smile and coo more if he learns that this will garner parental attention, creating a positive feedback loop and encouraging a happy disposition.
Babies attempt to practice sound versatility at about six to eight months and begin to put consonants and vowels together. “Da-da,” “ma-ma,” and “ba-ba” do not actually have meaning. These sounds are only reinforced as words by parents who point to the referred parent when pronouncing them. The ability to form true words usually surfaces by about one year of age.
Here are a few more tentative timeframes for important firsts:
Baby First Tooth: The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests to use the “seven-plus-four” rule. At seven months of age, children should have their first teeth, four months later they should have about four teeth and so on.
Baby First Step: Kids begin to try their luck with walking at about 8 and 15 months.
Baby First Friend: Parallel play, or side-by-side play begins at around 24 months and blossoms into cooperative play between 30 and 36 months.