Under the Hood

Newborn Babies May Smell Good To Moms Due To Amniotic Fluid, Vernix Caseosa

Newborn Babies May Smell Good To Moms Due To Amniotic Fluid, Vernix Caseosa
The latest video from Sci Show explains it has to do with both psychology and biology. Youtube

There's nothing like a new shoe, car, or even baby smell. The slightest scent of a newborn, also known as the "new baby" smell, has an intoxicating universal appeal that triggers us to become enamored with these tiny creatures. However, why do these babies smell so delicious we just want to eat them up?

In Sci Show's video, "Why Do Babies Smell So Good?" host Michael Aranda explains the sweet, comforting smell of new babies has to do with both psychology and biology. The baby smell is so fleeting; it only lasts six weeks before it's gone. Although we know the smell exists, it's difficult to establish which chemicals are responsible for this delectable scent. For example, in natural body odor, we have roughly 120 to 130 individual chemical compounds, and they vary by person.

Researchers believe one factor that could influence baby smell is leftover amniotic fluid, which is the protective substance that surrounds the embryo as it grows. In addition, vernix caseosa, the white, cheese-like substance that coats babies' skin when they're born, is also linked to this scent. This substance is usually washed away right after delivery, but traces can remain in the baby's hair or the folds of the arms and legs, which can contribute to the new baby smell.

A 2013 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found evidence the baby smell is not only real, but it also acts as a compensation for mothers. The researchers gathered a group of 30 women that were about the same age: 15 who had given birth within the previous six weeks, and 15 who had never given birth. Researchers isolated the baby smell from baby pajamas, specifically from 18 newborns that were not related to any of the participants, specifically from 18 newborns that were not related to any of the participants. The women smelled the newborn odors while undergoing brain scans. All of the women showed activity in the reward-related areas of the brain.

Overall, the study concluded the smell might act as a sort of incentive to get new moms to feel pleasure when they take care of babies. This could promote more maternal care, and offset some of the exhaustion and hard work of parenting. There haven't been any studies involving men yet, but researchers suspect the effects of baby smell might be similar.

The new baby smell isn't down to a science, but like any body odor, it's all a combination of factors.

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