The new baby smell doesn’t always trigger the same reaction in everyone. You may not notice if you are not a parent and have little experience with babies. It’s way more common for a mother to recognize that sweet scent in their first few weeks.
Scents can trigger memories. If you are a mom to older children, smelling a new baby will likely remind you how sweet your baby’s scent was when they were born. I’ve always heard of and seen people smelling babies and never understood why they are so hooked on that new baby smell. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I experienced the smell of a newborn.
What is the New Baby Smell?
There is much research and speculation about where that new baby smell comes from and why it smells so good. Some theories include lingering amniotic fluid, vernix caseosa (the protective barrier babies have on their skin in the womb that sheds before birth), and even chemicals secreted through their sweat glands.1
Regardless of where it comes from, it’s nature’s way of pulling you in and bonding you and your little one. This is also why many hospitals delay bathing your newborn. Skin-to-skin contact with the mom immediately after birth is excellent for bonding and initiating breastfeeding. Even the World Health Organization recommends waiting at least 24 hours for their first bath.2
Smell and Babywearing
Did you know keeping your little one close is excellent for their development? It stimulates their senses, regulates their body temperature, and stabilizes their heart rate. Being close to mom gives them a sense of security and calm. Some babies even cry less when mothers use carriers. It’s also good for mom. Being close to your baby and their smell reduces depression and improves sleep.3,4
If you are breastfeeding, it provides easy access and allows your little one to feed on demand while you remain mobile. Another benefit has to do with weight gain. Babies who their mothers wear tend to gain more weight. Their mother’s smell triggers wanting to breastfeed to eat and be close.3,4
Why Do Babies Smell Good?
Babies smell especially good to their mothers. The scent is associated with bonding, so mothers and babies recognize each other’s scent and find it calming. While anyone can pinpoint that sweet and pleasant smell of a newborn, it affects their mother’s brain by causing a surge in dopamine. This is the area of the brain associated with rewards. The reaction is the same as someone who has used drugs. No wonder some moms say smelling their baby is addicting!1
What Does It Smell Like?
People describe the new smell differently. It can vary from baby to baby, too. Examples include sweet, cheesy, fresh bread, milk, soap, and earthy. Each of my babies had a different scent to me when they were born. My first reminded me of baby powder, my second smelled almost of syrup, and my third had a combination of a sweet and slightly cheesy scent. They were all good to me. This also explains why some mothers say their baby smells so good they “could eat them up.”
How Long Does the New Baby Smell Last?
The new baby smell starts to fade after a few weeks. Since there is no real answer as to what causes it, there is no answer as to why it goes away (and so quickly).1
What If Your Baby Doesn’t Smell Good?
Most of the time, it’s a dirty diaper. It could also be breastmilk or formula residue that lingers on their skin. I noticed that their skin folds and wrinkles were breeding grounds for stink. Babies can be such messy eaters.1
The new baby smell is still not completely explained, even though many theories are floating around about where it comes from and why we love it so much. I advise that if you have a newborn, soak it up as much as possible. Time flies, and kids grow way too fast. Enjoy that new baby smell for as long as it lasts.