"Mmm, you smell so good, I could eat you up!" Any parent who has snuggled a newborn baby knows the powerful feelings evoked from smelling that fresh, warm little head. A new study explains why new baby smell is so delicious.
The scent of a newborn baby taps
right into the pleasure centers of a woman's brain, whether the smell
comes from her own baby or someone else's, scientists have discovered.
are the areas of the brain that are activated if you are very hungry,
and you finally get something to eat, or if you are a drug addict, and
you finally get the drug you were craving.
Apparently, nature has provided us with a 'tool' that helps with the bonding between a mother and her newborn child.
look at how a newborn's smell affects the brain, an international team
of scientists rounded up 30 women, 15 of whom had given birth three to
six weeks earlier. The other 15 had never had a baby.
women were in a brain scanner, the scientists presented them with either
the scent of a newborn baby or just fresh air. The researchers captured
'essence of newborn' by taking t-shirts that babies had worn for two
days and then freezing them in plastic bags until the scent was needed
for the experiment.
While all the women reported that the newborn
scent was pleasant, there was a difference on the brain scans between
the new moms and the women who had never had a baby: as soon as the
newborn scent was detected, the pleasure centers of the all the women
sparked, but in the new moms they lit much brighter.
likely evolved to respond that way because the birth of a baby shakes up
the world of any new parent, researches explain. The helpless baby
needs some way to make grownups care.
A mother with her first
child goes from living life in a couple to, all of a sudden, having to
care for a little human being who cries whenever it wants and whom you
have to clean up after. It's a big, big disturbance. It could be seen as
something unpleasant, and yet, most parents get pleasure from it.
The researchers haven't looked at the impact of newborn scent on dads, but suspect fathers' brains will also react.
It makes perfect sense that we're programmed to respond to baby scents in this way.
those first few months, babies are mostly just needing to be cared for,
and we don't get much positive feedback from them. So the fact that the
pleasure centers are activated makes it more rewarding at a time when
parenthood is very intensive and depleting. Our little receptors are
lighting up and we have good feelings to offset all the hard work and
That special scent buoys parents until the baby has other pleasures to offer.
great that babies start smiling when they're a couple of months old,
when most parents are worn out and not much positive is coming back to
them. Then the kid smiles, and its the best thing in the world.
say 'something' switches on during pregnancy and delivery, which would
explain why the brains of new moms sparked so much more brightly than
those of women who'd never had a child.