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20 Facial Expressions Newborns Make (And What They Mean)

Before a baby is old enough to communicate with his or her words, it is not out of the ordinary for them use their facial expressions to tell mom, dad, and anyone who will listen what they’re really thinking.

While cries definitely express that something is wrong, a newborn’s facial expressions are what gives a more specific hint for the well-meaning adult standing nearby, trying to figure out what’s wrong. But of course, a newborn (just like any adult) uses their facial expressions to show when they are fascinated, surprised, scared, and even bored. Yes, even newborns get bored despite being in a phase where they can’t help but explore and discover every little thing about themselves.

Whether it’s communicating something good or something not so good, or even something indifferent, it’s vital to understand that much of what a baby was feeling is to evaluate their facial expressions. Plus, if anything else, it’s really fun to see them express themselves, or at least try, with their eyes, nose, and mouth. And of course, there’s the joy of being able to cash in on the light bulb that goes off when a mom or dad finally realizes why the baby has a specific facial expression. Whether it’s for communication or just plain fun, take a look at 20 facial expressions newborns make, and what they mean.

20 Fascination

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Seeing a baby show their fascination in their facial expressions is one of the best things ever. From zooming in with their eyes to doing the most adorable eyebrow wiggle ever, to the infamous “oooo” and “aaahhh” face, babies typically don’t hold back when they are amazed by something, even if it’s the smallest little thing.

They also don’t hesitate to squeal or get even closer to the thing that has their attention. One of the key things experts say to do is to explain the object or situation that made them fascinated to begin with. Sounds like fun times all around.

19 Distress

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When a newborn is turning down the corners of their mouth, subconsciously arching their eyebrows in the middle, they are probably showing signs of distress. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are crying, but it’s very possible that their chin is quivering.

But any parent knows it won’t take long for these seemingly subtle signals of distress to turn into a total meltdown and fall out situation. The best thing to do is to offer rhythmic stimulations to help the baby calm down for a bit.

18 Boredom

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Who knew newborns could get bored? From exploring their fingers and toes to opening up to the world around them, one would think there’s plenty of things for a newborn to get into. Still, boredom even strikes for the future tiny tot.

Along with conveying facial expressions that prove the child has nothing better to do, don’t be surprised when they take action and start yelling, crying, and when they’re old enough, throwing something in your direction to get your attention. This could be the perfect time to break out into song and dance or teach the child something new.

17 Anger

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Oh the red face and eyes closed shut. These are certainly just two of the faces that indicate a child is angry. Of course things get physical when they try to push away your hand when one goes into mommy mode in an attempt to comfort and get rid of anything that could be causing this negative and intense emotion.

While a mom tries to figure out what the baby needs, it’s also a bonus to speak to the child in a calming voice (no matter how turned up they get), and assure them everything will be okay. Hopefully that will do the trick!

16 Unease

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Considering they have lots of things to discover, it only makes sense that a newborn could become afraid of even the smallest thing. Whether it’s an applause or the sound of something falling, it doesn’t take much to make a newborn nervous about things they’ll soon do all the time.

While their eyes wide open can be a display of fear, it’s safe to say that could also mean an array of other things. But when paired with trembling hands, being completely still (which is rare in itself), or even crying out, there’s an indication that they are certainly afraid of something.

15 Gaze Diversion

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While a child loves looking into a mom’s eyes just as much as their mother does, sometimes they need to take a small break from playing a staring game. When they turn their face away, it simply means they might feel overly stimulated, stressed, or even disconnected, even if it’s just for a moment.

They might even take on doing certain activities like turning the attention to their body parents and playing with their fingers and toes. Sometimes they’ll go as far as crying. To them, they’re just doing whatever they have to break contact. Research says for parents to simply wait until they are ready to connect again.

14 Smile

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Just like full grown adults, when a baby smiles, it’s pretty self-explanatory that they are very happy. While they might look like they are smiling shortly after combing out of the womb, one physician told Parenting that an actual smile typically doesn’t happen until the baby is between six and eight weeks.

“At this early age, smiles are likely a signal of physical contentment,” they said. So, for any parent that wants the smiles to keep on coming, simply continuing doing what brought the smile to begin with and respond with a returned smile for positive affirmation. Congratulations, there’s a happy baby in the making.

13 Copying

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We think it’s safe to say all moms love that moment when their baby copies their every move. Even though they might be pretty tiny, it’s so amazing for the flattering imitation. What a means for a baby is that they are simply mirroring and copying what they see.

Even though this can be a great thing, it can also be a catch-22 if the baby is copying a negative emotion or feeling like stress, crying, or another emotion associated with sadness. For those parents who realize the baby is copying a negative emotion, simply switch it up, get positive, and tell them everything will be fine.

12 Looking At Mom And Dad

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Yes, even a child simply looking can show a certain emotion. Although, it’s a pretty simple one – often times it doesn’t mean anything more than that they are observing how Mom and Dad respond to particular situations – whether it’s a good or bad one. The smart thing to do is to acknowledge and recognize that they are watching.

As a bonus, parents can also label the faces they are making, whether it’s happy or sad, letting the child know and recognize what faces they are experiencing. It’s also best to display a smile with someone who is considered a stranger to the baby.

11 Laughing And Babbling

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How much do we love it when a baby not only laughs but starts to speak in baby English? It’s like they can’t get out fast enough of how happy they are about something, and even how much they want to be able to communicate with everyone else.

When a child is between four and six months, they start to make letters with their speech in hopes of communicating how they really feel. As for the roles parents take on during this potentially hilarious phase, experts say they can intentionally have conversations with their child every day, even if they are just learning on how to respond.

10 Wrinkling Eyebrows And Poking Out Lips

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As cute as these facial expressions are, it’s clear that a child is trying to communicate something very interesting. In simple terms, it’s very possible that the newborn is just a little overstimulated and is on the verge of having a breakdown sooner than later. Interestingly enough, their goal is just to have a little alone time (who knew babies actually like being alone every once in a while?) and to just be comfortable for a little bit.

Parents can respond by putting the child in a cradle position and letting them kick back and relax. After all, the life of a newborn is soooo hard (insert sarcasm here).

9 Power Kicks

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Along with facial expressions, newborns also express how they are feeling with their adorable little feet. Once they are a few weeks old, they soon realize the power of these body parts and don’t waste time in using them to show their emotion. Typically, newborns start kicking their feet when they are bored and have nothing else around to solve the problem. They might also see kicking their feet as a fun way to get mommy’s attention.

Still, mom can solve any potential issue by seeing if there’s anything that makes the child uncomfortable that would cause him or her to kick their feet (for example a diaper that needs changing or if something is poking or itching him).

8 Really Happy Face

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Who can resist a baby who is just all smiles, giggles, and so much more? Thankfully, we can’t get enough of this because when it happens, it’s super obvious that the child couldn’t be happier in that moment in time. Hints that a child is extremely happy is when they smile with their mouth wide open, put their cheeks high, and giving out light sounds and giggles.

They could also make wrinkles on the side of their eyes to show that they are all for whatever it is they’re seeing. A mom’s next step for this one is pretty easy – whatever they’re doing, don’t stop!

7 Faint Cry

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Typically when this happens, especially just after a baby stretches and fully wakes up from their name, it usually means they could use something to eat. These cries don’t last very long. Instead, they can go for just a couple of seconds. But that doesn’t mean that Mom or Dad won’t notice what’s happening and spring into action before things could get worse. The first step is to make sure the baby knows their parent is close by.

In fact, in these phases, more than ever, experts say moms don’t have to worry about over coddling their newborn. They need it more than ever now.

6 Intense Stare

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While seeing a child play Inspector Gadget and give their best intense stare can bring quite the number of laughs, what does it really mean? Thankfully it’s not anything negative at all! Instead, it simply means whatever they are staring at has their attention, and they don’t plan on letting go of it anytime soon.

The best part is when the child keeps staring at their mom or dad as they move around the room. This is an indication and a sign that they want to make sure they keep their eyes on their parent’s every move. Talk about adorable!

5 Gawky Clapping

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Even the attempt of clapping is something that we can get used to when it comes to newborns; only because it’s so extremely adorable. But like other motions and facial expressions, an infant is doing it because it means something. Still, no need to worry! In this case, a child is still learning how to coordinate. So when they put their palms together and hear something, it’s easy for them to be amazed.

Plus, depending on how often they see Mom and Dad clapping, it might just be their way of trying to be a big boy or big girl and imitate their motions. Either way, clapping is not only a developmental win, but also shows that the child is learning about their body.

4 Startled

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Making a startled look is nothing more than a newborn reacting to anything from a loud and unexpected sound or bright lights (so maybe save the flash on a camera for a later time). Sometimes these sounds and vision sensations can make the child afraid and they could start crying because they have absolutely no idea what’s going on; can you blame them?

Parents can respond by picking up the child with a blanket and bringing the environment back to normal as much as possible. They can also cover the child as the child was embraced and covered in the womb.

3 Content

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It’s never a bad day when a baby is content. So how does one know when a child is living their best life with contentment? They show a facial expression of peace and complete Zen and satisfaction. They don’t cry out for any attention, they’re not looking and observing everything small and large around them. They are simply… well, content. Think about the face an adult makes when content.

It’s safe to say a baby will do the same. And parents, this is the perfect time to enjoy it. Their own responsibility is to make sure their child is good and comfortable, because in a state like this, they are probably going to fall asleep.

2 Clenched Fists

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It’s safe to say a newborn loves to clench their fists around an adult’s thumb or even their whole hand. But sometimes, clenching his or her own fists together it could be mean they are hungry, or interestingly enough, just want to be left alone. In this case, it’s best to just let the baby have their way, even if Mom or Dad were enjoying a playing session with them.

All a parent has to do is just remind their newborn that they are close by if they need them. It’s also important to note that if a newborn is clenching their fists and letting out a faint cry, they might be hungry or need a diaper change.

1 Scrunched Face And Grunting

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This is a surefire sign that the newborn is probably uncomfortable. Whether they need to eat or are victim of a dirty diaper, when they grunt, it’s clear that they are trying to find some sort of comfort in their current situation. On the other hand, they could also be experiencing something as simple as gas. Cute, huh?

If parents want to help out with this one, there’s nothing like a good belly rub to do the trick. It should also be noted that a scrunched face without crying paired with wide eyes could just mean that the newborn is pooping.

Sources: Parents, Parenting, First Cry, The Bump

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