Ever notice that babies just smell GOOD?
There's just something about the way that newborn babies smell that's positively delightful. Whether they're aware of it or not, one of the first things people do when they're holding a very young baby is take a deep whiff.
Babies naturally smell good. It's not baby powder. It's not baby fabric softener. It's just baby smell... and then it wears off after a while and eventually they become adults who mask their odors under other odors with varying degrees of success.
But why do babies smell good? Is "baby smell" real?
Researchers say baby smell is very real.
In a study published in Frontiers of Psychology, scientists analyzed activity in the brains of 30 women who were exposed to the smell of newborn babies taken from pajamas (so that there was no visual stimulus). Half of the women had just given birth to their first child, while the other half were childless.
The results were amazing.
They found that regardless of maternal status, the smell of newborns triggered dopamine release in the reward pathways of the brain — the same "pleasure pathways" affected by cocaine, food, and other stimuli that evoke reward response.
Baby smell may help create infant-mother bonds.
"These tentative data suggests that certain body odors might act as a catalyst for bonding mechanisms," the researchers wrote, adding that baby smell may act as a "medium for the mutual exchange of cues and signals that may influence mother to infant and infant to mother signaling in a manner previously demonstrated for visual stimuli."
But what about men and baby smell?
The jury is still out on that, though The New York Times reports that one of the study's researchers, Johan Lundstrom of the Monell Chemical Center Center, says a similar process may take place in men.
So, keep smelling those babies and please share this with your friends.
Cover photo: TiareScott, licensed through Creative Commons/Flickr. Cropped to fit.