Babies are known to be attached to their mom. After all, they’ve spent 9 months growing inside her body and are born into the world needing the mother’s body to nourish and feed them. Babies crave a mother’s touch, so it’s not surprising that babies might experience some anxiety when they experience new people. Although secure attachment to the mother is important for a baby’s development, it’s also important and natural for the baby to bond with other people. Caregivers can help make that bonding experience easier for the baby just by utilizing the mother’s scent!
Why is a baby’s sense of smell important? Scent is an important biological mechanism that gives us clues into our environment. Babies are born with a strong sense of smell that is key to their survival. Smell helps them find the mother and latch to breastfeed for the first time. A person’s scent isn’t just one smell; it’s a complex mixture of chemical signals. Because of the complexity, smells aren’t usually the subject of research studies until recently. The most current data shows that babies can use a mother’s smell to bond with other caregivers.
Recent research gives us new clues into the power of a mother’s scent. A recent study published in the journal Scientific Advances entitled “Maternal chemosignals enchanted infant-adult brain-to-brain synchrony” explains this amazing relationship between a mother’s scent and a baby’s ability to interact with others. The study used a t-shirt the mother had worn for a few days prior to the study. The data showed that the babies who were exposed to strangers using the mother’s worn shirt were able to interact and bond more easily than a stranger using a clean t-shirt without the mother’s scent. The infants in the study showed more positive arousal and social attention in the maternal chemosignals group. The researches focused on the babies’ “social brain” to understand the relationship scent has on mother-baby interaction and stranger-baby interaction.
Many parents already use this fact to help their babies adjust to different situations. For example, a mother might drape one of her shirts over her spouse’s shoulder while they give the baby a bottle. A mother might also sleep with a baby’s blanket or crib sheet for a night so that the following evening, the baby can be swaddled or placed on a blanket that smells like her in hopes that her baby will sleep longer or more peacefully. A baby starting to attend a new daycare might bring along a blanket or comfort item that smells like the mother. A mother’s scent has remarkable powers to calm and soothe her little one!
Babies actually begin developing their sense of smell long before they enter the world. A baby’s ability to smell begins in the womb, when they can smell the amniotic fluid. After your baby is just a few days old, he can differentiate between his mother’s scent and that of a stranger. Both the mother’s breast milk and her body odor have unique scents that attract her baby. The smell of a mother’s milk is known to have a calming effect on newborns. A mother’s scent can sometimes be so powerful that it’s hard for her baby to share a room with her and might cause more frequent waking. A baby’s sense of smell is vital to their survival, especially during the newborn months!
How can parents use a mother’s scent to help care for their babies? If you find that your new baby has a hard time adjusting to bedtime alone or bonding with other caregivers, you might try to incorporate your scent into her routine. You can sleep with a crib sheet or swaddle blanket for a few nights so it smells like you, and then add it (safely) to your baby’s sleep environment. If another caregiver is attempting to help with baby duties and the baby is having trouble relaxing, try giving the other person one of the mother’s worn shirts to drape over their shoulder so that the baby will recognize the mother’s scent and feel more secure. This can be extremely helpful when training a breastfed baby to take a bottle!
A mother’s scent is a powerful biological mechanism that is useful for caring for her children. If your baby is struggling to bond with other people or feels overstimulated in social situations, try utilizing the mother’s scent to help bridge the gap for your little one and help her better adjust to other people.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.
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