The Science Of Why Babies Smell So Good

Ask any mother, or really anyone with a nose who has ever held a newborn baby. New baby smell is real. It is intoxicating — even delicious (ever hear a grandma say, “I could just eat you up”?).

New Baby Smell Is Real

Turns out, this powerful smell may be an evolutionary benefit for mothers and babies. According to a 2013 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, there is evidence to suggest the scent of a newborn baby affects certain brain regions in women.

Participants in the all-female study were presented with the newborn smell and all showed activity in the reward-related cerebral areas of the brain, while those women in the study that just given birth showed a higher spark in their pleasure centers.

Researchers believe the smell acts as an incentive to get moms to feel pleasure when taking care of newborn babies, thus promoting more maternal care and helping to offset exhaustion and the hard work of parenting.


So, What Causes This Scent?

Sure, baby powder and scented wipes may add to the intoxicating smell, but that newborn baby smell is all natural. Still, researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes it.

In SciShow’s video, Why Do Babies Smell So Good? host Michael Aranda explains the newborn baby smell is extra hard to study because the smell is gone after six weeks. Researchers think the scent could be caused by leftover amniotic fluid, or vernix caseosa — the white, cheesy-looking substance covering babies at birth.

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What about dad? At this time, no studies have been done on men but scientists believe the scent may have a similar effect on them as well.