We have all heard about new car smells, but what about new baby smells?
You know, that earthy, new baby smell, that one that causes dopamine to release in your brain and makes you feel so good – what is it? Smell can be the most potent sense to strike up an emotional response. The smell of a newborn is likely thought to be a combination of chemicals secreted through sweat glands, lingering amniotic fluid and vernix caseosa, the white cheese-like cream that covers babies at birth; all this combined, is thought to create a combination of intoxicating medley aroma that nature designed to pull you in. Whatever it is, that distinct smell provides a pathway to our brains and to ultimately our hearts and binds us to that little life in front of us.
Although the newborn scent eventually fades (usually around six weeks of age) many parents (including this one) are known to take a deep whiff of their child’s head (regardless of their age) and savor the unique scent and comfort it provides you.
In the past, many hospital births resulted in baby being bathed and cleaned immediately after birth. This is still policy in some hospitals. However, these days we are beginning to understand why delaying a bath and leaving the vernix on baby is important. The World Health Organization recommends delaying the first bath until at least 24 hours after birth. The longer you wait on the first bath, the better.
Delaying the baby and leaving the vernix caseosa intact, helps contribute to that new baby smell, but it also acts as a natural moisturizer and barrier on baby’s skin.
Delaying the infant bath allows mother and baby time to bond, allows for skin to skin, and increases the likelihood of initiating breastfeeding. It also keeps that precious vernix where it belongs, on your baby.
Studies show that all mammals use their sense of smell to create that mother/infant bond. Not only do we react to baby’s scent, studies also have shown that babies also react to their own parents’ scents. Babies show a preference for clothing worn by their parent, usually if it has the scent of their milk on it. The odor of mother’s breast milk on preterm babies especially seems to have a calming effect and can be used a safe method for pain relief.
So get out there and start sniffing it up. The smell will fade but your memory of it will not. And if you’re about to give birth remember what nature intended and the World Health Organization recommends, wait to bathe and enjoy the new baby smell.