Shared Wisdom: Newborns Can Recognize Your Scent

Posted in , , on 7-11-12

Shared Wisdom: Newborns Can Recognize Your Scent

Not only do I draw from my personal experience, I scour the internet and read countless books and articles on baby care to bring you the latest information and help you make informed decisions. Once in a while I run into an article that’s so exceptional, I share it in it’s entirety – my “Shared Wisdom” series. This article is from the blog, Journey to Happily Ever After.

Babies are sensitive to smells at birth, so do not wear any kind of scent –  no perfume and wear unscented deodorant. Your baby recognizes you by your scent and you don’t want artificial scents to interfere with your baby bonding to you.————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Scent-Memories of the Womb

Experiments show that newborns recognize, and are soothed by, the smell of amniotic fluid. In fact, hours after birth, babies prefer breasts that have been dabbed with amniotic fluid (Varendi et al 1997). This preference fades away after a few days, however. And even while it persists, newborns are also highly attracted to natural breast odors.

Babies can distinguish between breast milk and baby formula. When presented with two scents – the scent of non-familiar breast milk and the scent of familiar formula, newborns showed a preference for the odor of human milk.

Newborns Learn to Recognize Their Own Mothers’ Distinctive Scents

Can newborn babies identify their mothers on the basis of odor alone? It seems that they can. A recent study found that newborns undergoing a painful procedure (a heel prick) were soothed by the smell of breast milk…but only if the milk was from their own mothers.

Newborns also respond to breast milk by making mouthing movements. In one experiment, newborns were presented with the odors of different breast milk samples–samples donated by their mothers and by other, unfamiliar women. The babies mouthed more in response to their own mothers’ odors.

Interestingly, the effect depended on how much skin-to-skin contact the infants had experienced with their mothers immediately after birth. Those who’d experienced more than 50 minutes of contact showed a greater difference in mouthing. The results are consistent with the idea that newborns are especially likely to learn about odors in the minutes immediately after birth.

Is There a Sensitive Period for Olfactory Learning in Newborns?

Maybe. Romantshik and colleagues presented newborns with a novel odor for 30 minutes starting either 4-37 minutes after birth or 12 hours after birth. A few days later, the infants were tested on their ability to recognize the odor. Only the babies who’d been exposed to the scent in the first few minutes after birth could do so. In fact, it seems that newborns can acquire preferences for a variety of novel odors if they encounter them immediately after birth.
In one experiment, researchers exposed newborns to the scent of chamomile while they were nursing. Days later, their attraction to the scent of chamomile was as strong as their attraction to the scent of breast milk.

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