When I gave birth to my first child, a friend of mine came to visit me at the hospital. She asked if she could hold my son, and when I handed him over she immediately started sniffing him. “Gosh, I love that new baby smell,” she exclaimed to me. “Can’t get enough of it.” I quickly realized that the new baby smell was addictive, with many people using my son to get a fix of his fresh and clean little body.
Some mothers suggested using certain baby shampoos, baby powder, and lotions to perpetuate the glorious scent, but none of them seemed to really replicate the real deal. According to SciShow, there is a reason babies naturally smell so heavenly and it is not only scientific but psychological as well.
Host Michael Aranda explains that the newborn baby smell, which lingers for about six weeks after a baby is born, may be due to leftover amniotic fluid as well as vernix caseosa — which is the white substance that coats the baby’s skin when they are born. Though it is immediately washed off the skin, traces can hang around for weeks.
This is good news for mothers, because according to a 2013 study published in the medical journal Frontiers in Psychology, this scent doesn’t only exist, but it may affect certain brain regions of all women, especially with new mothers.
For the study they rounded up 30 women similar in age — half of whom had never given birth and half who welcomed a child within the last six weeks. Isolating the newborn smell on a pair of pajamas taken from babies totally unrelated to any of them, the women underwent brain scans while smelling the sleepwear. Every single one of them showed activity in reward-related areas of the brain.
The study concluded that the new baby smell works as sort of a pleasure incentive for new mothers to take care of their babies — which could offset the exhaustion and promote more maternal care.
Basically, our babies smell so freaking amazing because we subconsciously need them to.
So far this test has only been done with women, so it isn’t clear if dads react the same way, but it’s assumed that it would yield similar results.
Until a company can truly mimic the smell, we will all have to just keep birthing more babies or make sure that our friends and family provide enough to keep our senses satisfied.