Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sniffing babies' heads

Oh come on, you know you do. Even if it's not your own baby.

Don't worry - we can all come clean now; it appears there's a biological reason for what might at first appear as a 'bit of a habit'.

A study of 30 women, half of whom had given birth, led scientists to conclude - "The scent of a newborn baby really does tap 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. The new findings have been described in a study just published in Frontiers in Psychology."

The article goes on to say “For those first few months babies are mostly just needing to be cared for and we don’t get much positive feedback from them,” an expert says. “So the fact that the pleasure centers are activated makes it more rewarding at a time when parenthood is very intensive and depleting........That special scent buoys parents until the baby has other pleasures to offer".

So, in other words, given that tiny babies are a bit like pet rocks, they are given this gorgeous baby smell so that we won't take them back to the hospital and demand a refund. Very clever human design eh?


  1. I heard that on the radio this morning...makes sense. There is something wonderful about babies' heads. Not just the smell but the softness. Almost enough to make one clucky again....

  2. Interesting, the smell of a newborn is like fresh peach pits, then they lose that smell overnight. I love tiny babies, miss that creature like little everything they have. (sorry I owe you an email too, have been snowed under, but will reply soonest)

  3. Totally makes sense! And also explains the inexplicable urge to say "Can I hold him/her?"

    Now, I need to find a baby to hold/sniff.

  4. I'm a bit out of the loop here; is this something like the smell of a brand new car ;)

  5. Gosh! I'm not at all maternal and couldn't imagine me wanting to sniff a baby's head! Of course, I probably did with Amy, but I wouldn't want to do it with other people's!

    CJ x

  6. "we don’t get much positive feedback from them"
    haha. nicely put :-) and yes, I do love a good sniff around a new baby's head

  7. Thats quite handy to know. Often wondered why sniffing a babies head was so rewarding!
    Like eating chocolate. I suppose its all to do with chemical reactions in the brain!
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  8. I was close to getting a refund with me first!!! So glad she smelt good ;)

    She's nearly 17 now - where did that time go?

  9. @Michael Harling... For women, yes it is something like that! I do get a big kick out of watching people handed a young baby automatically dip their noses and lips to the baby's head, especially those who have children themselves. They don't seem to be aware they're doing it. I do it myself. Such an ancient, primal way of bonding to a helpless infant and thereby becoming part of the circle of adults who are vested in its survival.

  10. I am one of those weirdos who actually asks, 'can I smell your baby?' It's nice to know there's a biological impetus for that rather than just general creepiness on my part (although some may disagree.) Love your comparison of newborns to pet rocks: my brother-in-law (father of 3) referred to them as 'potatoes' - same general idea.

  11. Ewww! Why would I want to smell a baby? I never hold them unless I absolutely have to. I'm not even sure I smelt my own.

    I'm with Mike. A new car smells great. Though not as good as melted chocolate.


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