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Early years

23rd Apr 2024

Why do newborns have that smell?


You gotta love that new baby smell

Is there anything quite like the smell of a newborn baby? If it was made into a candle it would sell out in an instant.

Yet what on earth makes them smell so good? Well, one person decided to spread their theory on social media.

According to a report from Romper, it all started with a woman “saying the weird thing” on TikTok.

She posts that when you smell the head of a baby “and it smells really good and really sweet and, you know, it makes moms want to take care of the babies. You’re actually smelling the baby’s brain.”

Nope, that’s not a typo, that’s actually a direct quote.

She continues: “Because they have that little soft spot on the top of their head that hasn’t grown together quite yet and then it goes away right about the time that their fontanelle closes up?

irish baby names
Credit: Canva

“You’re smellin’ baby brain. The smell of brains is what’s making you love that child.”

Before you start freaking out, that’s actually not quite the right answer, in fact, it’s not right at all – thank God.

Romper decided to get an actual expert to debunk the TikToker’s claim.

Dr Jason Yaun, M.D. explained that there’s just no way to smell your baby’s brain through their head. He said, “That new baby smell, we love it, but it goes away in a few weeks and the baby’s soft spots stay open for months, so it doesn’t really line up or add up.”

So what actually makes the smell of a newborn so addictive? Well, we don’t actually have a solid answer but there are a few theories out there that make more sense than baby brain.

Newborns arrive after spending months floating in amniotic fluid, covered in the waxy white substance known as vernix caseosa.

Some theorise that these fluids and substances play a part in that new baby smell. This might be part of the reason that special newborn scent is fleeting, lasting only a few weeks.

study from 2019 considered the scent of amniotic fluid compared to the scent of a newborn baby’s head and found that while some components were similar, the newborn scent featured more chemical elements and was individually distinct.

newborn smell
Credit: Canva

For mothers, the new baby smell causes a huge surge of dopamine. This reward response is a similar reaction to when you taste a food you’ve been craving.

It works in the same way that a surge of dopamine caused by using drugs encourages people to engage in drug-seeking behaviour.

The surge of dopamine caused by sniffing our babies encourages us to stay close to them, they literally make us addicted to them.

So there you have it. It’s not all in your head, we are actually addicted to our babies and we wouldn’t have it any other way.