What’s one of the first milestones a baby reaches? It’s the smile! Don’t you just love those little gassy, eyes rolling back, fast asleep newborn smiles? What a delight! They’re hard to resist, cracking even hardened men and causing friends and family to hover over every toothless grin excitedly asking, “Was that a real smile?”
At first, it’s not easy to tell whether the smile is “real” or something else, but one thing’s for certain: if you smile often at your baby, he is likely to smile often at you! It’s not brain surgery or rocket science. It simply makes sense. Newborns mimic what they see. Yes, nature comes into play, but so much of how we relate to life results from how our experiences shape our world.
Many Moms and babies make special connections very early. Even before birth, a mom delights in feeling her baby move, imagining him stretching and rolling. The baby also is comforted by his mother’s heartbeat and already learning to recognize his Mother’s voice. In the delivery room, they comfort each other. The baby looks for his mother, nuzzling up to her breast moments after birth. His wide eyes can focus a distance of only 8 – 12 inches, about as far as they will be from Mom’s as he nurses.
Few can resist smiling when they first hold that little bundle of Joy, but reality sets in quickly. No matter how much you love your child and how you treasure every day, new moms have battles to contend with too. New moms might have to go back to work and stress over daycare. New moms might get caught up in the hustle and bustle of older children to care for. New moms might have concerns about their weight, their housekeeping, the gourmet meals they used to prepare, time alone with their husbands, not to mention hormone letdowns, and night after night of near sleeplessness. All this can cause new moms to forget how powerful their smile is.
The Importance of Your Smile
When your child is an infant, all he wants is you! You are the center of his world. You might think your newborn is too little to notice your smile in those first few weeks, but even the tiniest of infants begin processing their world. They begin learning who is safe, who to reach to for help, and how to react to different people and circumstances. They learn who brings them comfort and Joy.
It’s not just when you’re actively playing with your child that you need to be aware of your demeanor either. Children, even very young ones, notice more than adults think they do. You might be amazed by how many times that first year you turn around to find your baby’s wide eyes watching you when you thought he was sleeping or otherwise occupied!
Character and integrity have little to do with what you show the world and more to do with what goes on when you think no one is watching. Your baby may not be able to speak yet, but he is developing a sense of character and integrity by watching you in those moments you think no one is watching. Because he cannot yet verbalize and is still so malleable, your baby will internalize messages he receives much more readily than adults. When you give an air of peace, confidence, and contentment through posture and smile when you think he’s not aware, when he’s sleeping and you hold him gently or when he’s stopped exploring his toes and silently watches you waiting for you to notice, the message he internalizes is powerful.
There is no bond like that of mother and child, and your infant looks to you to frame his world. He looks to you for comfort when he’s hurt. He looks to you for relief when he’s sick. He looks to you for reassurance when he’s afraid. He picks up on signals you send when you’re actively engaged with him and when he’s in his bouncy seat and you’re preparing dinner.
There is an unconditional Love in a baby that first year. He is highly demanding in some ways and at his most giving in others. Life through the first year is wonderful and joy-filled and teaches you things about Love you never knew whether this is your first baby or your tenth! Even in the best of circumstances, that first year can also be a time that challenges you, testing your limits, patience, self-esteem, and endurance, but pushing yourself to smile has immediate and long-term rewards.
When you smile at your baby, even when life isn’t perfect, something incredible happens. Payoff comes in the form of returned smiles, big priceless, toothless grins we all love so much, and you realize you can’t help but smile back. By pushing yourself to smile and find Joy in all circumstances, you not only lay the groundwork for your child finding Joy in his circumstances, but you are treated to your newborn’s smiles, which are like steroids you helping you grow a genuine smile of your own and the cycle repeats.
Not only does the Mom-Baby Smiling Cycle repeat, but it builds a smiling habit that can last a lifetime for both of you!
Who can resist a cute video thrown in just to remind us of what those first smiles do to our hearts???
Have photos or video of your baby’s smiles? Share them on my Facebook page The Right Path Life Coaching!
Pregnancy and that first year can be both amazing and challenging. If you’d like help discovering the parenting style that works best for you and your family, contact me today. As a mom of five boys who has taught kindergarten through high school and has a Masters in Education/Curriculum Development, I know cookie cutter solutions don’t work. You need to find what works for you! I LOVE working with families to discover The Right Path for them!
Together, we will get you unstuck and propel you forward, and I bet you’ll even have fun doing it!
Can’t wait to hear from you!