When Will My Baby Laugh?
Babies laugh about 300 times a day which, when compared to the average adult who laughs just 20 times a day, highlights how much babies use laughter to communicate with their parents and those around them.
Babies laugh before they can speak and research has been carried out that has shown some babies as young as 17 days old can vocalise laughter sounds. Most babies though are between one and four months old before their vocal chords have developed from the soft floppy ones of a newborn to become strong enough for them to laugh out loud.
How Do Babies Develop A Sense of Humour?
Laughter, like smiles, is one of baby's first form of interaction and imitation after communicating with cries from being a newborn. When they first laugh they might even shock or startle themselves with the involuntary noise they are suddenly making. Parents reacting positively to their laughter and sharing with them in it not only reassures the child but teaches a baby that laughter is a good thing and encourages them to do it more and more.
Generally by around three months old laughter should be quite common for most babies and by four months, a baby should be laughing out loud, chortling, giggling and squealing but, as in everything, babies develop at their own rate and there is nothing to worry about if your baby is slower to develop than others. They will reach their own milestones in their own time and will be no worse off for doing so slightly later than others.
For the first six months or so, babies laugh and smile in response to an outside stimulus, mostly auditory and tactile - from funny noises to tickling, blowing "raspberries" or an adult's own laughter. Between six and twelve months though, their humour becomes increasingly more slapstick and they begin to initiate games like dropping things out of the buggy or shopping trolley, playing peek-a-boo or passing something and snatching it back which they find, if their laughter is any indication, hilarious.
How Does Laughter Help?
Laughter is not only an expressive communication tool for babies as they share their enjoyment it is also good for a baby physically. Laughter exercises the lungs, oxygenates the blood, stabilises blood pressure and even helps digestion.
Laughter is not just good for babies though, their giggles and guffaws releases the so-called "love hormone" oxytocin into their parent's brains. When a parent listens to the laughter of their child a connection is made in the brain between the regions implicated in reward and emotion. So it makes us happy too!
Oxytocin enforces mothering behaviour and encourages bonding with the child as research in the Netherlands discovered. It reduces activity in the part of the mother's brain that processes fear or anxiety and promotes trust and affection leaving them more able to bond with their babies. Past studies have also concluded that the hormone has a similar result on the father's brain making them interact in a more stimulating, playful way with their children.
All babies develop at very different rates and if your baby hasn't reached the same milestones as other people's babies the chances are there is nothing to worry about. However, if you are concerned that your child is very late in reaching one or a number of milestones then it is sensible to seek further professional advice from either your health visitor or GP. We have more information on the variable rates of development in babies here.