Baby Care

When do babies start laughing? Here’s when the adorable milestone occurs

It’s a milestone every parent looks forward to: hearing their baby laugh for the very first time. But when do babies start laughing? Lucky for moms and dads, a baby’s first laugh happens pretty early on. While it’ll be some time before your little one is cackling at an Ali Wong special, laughing is generally a milestone babies hit before their half birthday. 

“We expect babies to start laughing at about 4 months of age,” says Dr. Kenneth Polin, a pediatrician with Lurie Children’s Primary Care – Town & Country Pediatrics in Skokie, Illinois. 

“That said, the range for a baby’s first laugh is from about 4 to 6 months.”

Here, experts explain when parents can expect to hear their baby’s first laugh, along with tips for garnering a giggle.

When do babies start laughing? 

On average, babies start laughing at around 4 months, but there are a few things that need to occur, developmentally, first, notes Dr. Sara Siddiqui, a pediatrician with NYU Langone Huntington Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital. 

“Some of the more social responsive milestones, like smiling and laughing, are a part of overall development,” notes Siddiqui. “An infant’s first social smile can occur as early as 6 to 8 weeks. This is a responsive action that occurs when the infant is reacting in a positive manner, usually upon seeing a familiar face.” 

Laughing, Siddiqui continues, usually occurs one to two months after the social smile, and takes on “varying degrees.” 

“Early chuckling can be seen at 4 months, whereas full laughing can be seen at 6 months,” Siddiqui explains. “Laughing is a responsive social interaction, and it requires multiple systems.”

Put another way: Don’t expect a belly laugh right off the bat. Similar to other baby milestones, laughing starts off slow and builds from there. 

“Early chuckling can be seen at 4 months, whereas full laughing can be seen at 6 months.”

—Dr. Sara Siddiqui, a pediatrician with NYU Langone Huntington Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital

What makes babies laugh?

Laughing is a response to a positive stimulus, says Polin, and typically one that’s unexpected. “Think about how a child would react if they looked at a dog, and it said ‘meow.’ They’d likely crack up,” he says. “With babies, it’s similar. Laughing often comes from a twist on what they were expecting, such as seeing you make a silly face or hearing you talk in a silly voice.”

The reverse is also true, he explains. “If your baby looks at you and you suddenly make a mean face, they might cry.” 

After your baby has a few laughs under their belt, they may use it as a way to initiate communication with parents or loved ones, says Siddqui, who adds that — adorableness alert! — babies often respond to waking up in the morning with laughter.

How can you encourage your baby’s first laugh?

You’ll easily encourage your baby’s first laugh by being silly. Think sticking your tongue out or making a “fish face” or making a repetitive funny noise.

You can also encourage your baby to laugh simply by smiling — or laughing — when communicating with them, notes Siddiqui, saying: “Copying behavior is so very key, so performing the behavior you would like to see is the best way to encourage smiling, chuckling and laughing.” 

Why do babies laugh in their sleep? 

It can seem a bit strange the first few times you witness it, but it’s perfectly normal for babies to both laugh and smile in their sleep.

“Babies can have reflexive laughs and smiles that present in the subconscious mind,” notes Siddiqui. “Smiling and laughing while sleeping can be from the brain making neuronal connections while sleeping and is part of healthy childhood development.”

When to check in with your pediatrician about laughter

If your baby isn’t “smiling, chuckling or laughing by 6 months, bring it up with your pediatrician,” advises Siddiqui. That said, she adds parents should discuss milestones and early childhood development at every well visit. 

“Early childhood development and evaluating milestones are an important way pediatricians and parents can determine if infants and children may benefit from more advanced assessments and evaluations for supports such as occupational, physical and speech therapy,” notes Siddiqui. 

Polin adds that if your baby isn’t yet laughing, it may just be that they haven’t yet reached that milestone, which comes at the tail-end of other early social milestones. 

“If babies have adequate input [stimulation], they should be interacting with others by 6 months,” he says, noting that that includes things like smiling and looking directly at you. 

“Relax and enjoy your baby. How you instinctually interact with them is likely more than enough.” 

—Dr. Kenneth Polin, a pediatrician in Skokie, Illinois

The bottom line on when babies start laughing

Odds are, your baby will start showing you their adorable laugh between 4 and 6 months. And while there are things you can do to encourage this impossibly sweet occasion, you needn’t become a full-time comedian. 

“Relax and enjoy your baby,” Polin says. “How you instinctually interact with them is likely more than enough.” 

He continues, “Parenting should be enjoyable. You don’t need to constantly look around for what you think you’re supposed to be doing. Do what you feel is best, and you’ll be doing right 99.9% of the time.”

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