‘New Baby Smell’ Is Really A Thing, And Mothers Aren’t The Only Ones Who Love It

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shutterstock_150981548__1381585509_142.196.156.251This week, a blogger wrote a post about how she rarely bathes her baby and the Internet went nuts. Apparently, a lot of people found this disgusting. She justified the infrequency of her baby’s baths by saying, “My baby smells really good to me all the time. My hormones say so. Could that be the reason I’m not super motivated to give him a scrub down?”

Yes. That actually could be the reason.

Last week, a NYT blogger contemplated that elusive new baby smell, and why not only parents but just about everyone loves it so much:

A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology confirms my beliefs, suggesting that baby smell is not only real, but acts as a kind of sensory compensation for mothers.

Researchers asked 30 women — 15 who had recently given birth, and 15 who had never given birth — to identify mystery scents while their brain activity was monitored. When given the smell of newborns taken from pajamas, the women all showed activity in the same dopamine pathways that light up after ingesting cocaine, enjoying food, or other reward-inducing behavior.

The reactions were observed in all the women, though they were stronger in the new mothers.

I love the smell of my infant, but I’ve noticed a lot of other people do, too.  Every friend I have that has older children has picked up my infant and taken a long, deep sniff of her forehead. Something along the lines of Oh, that’s the stuff! usually follows. Something about new baby smell puts people who have had kids in a very nostalgic place. It’s really sweet to watch.

I’m personally not disgusted by the blogger’s admission that she doesn’t bathe her child frequently – but reading her post in conjunction with the one above kind of put the whole thing in context. It’s her third baby. Maybe it’s going to be her last. Maybe she’s unwittingly trying to hold onto the experience of having a newborn a little longer. Maybe she’s just drunk on the intoxicating smell of her little one.

Whatever the reason, she makes me feel better about my twice-weekly infant-bathing ritual. I always thought parents who managed to work the infant bath into their daily ritual were either fantastic time-managers or just over-achievers.

(photo: Khoroshunova Olga/ Shutterstock)