Why mums are ‘hooked’ on the smell of new born babies?

Ever snuggled up to your cute bundle of joy and enveloped with his fresh, warm smell!The emotion is so powerful that it sometimes compels you to blurt out …Mmm, you are so cute and smell so good, I could gobble you up!

Apparently, the sentiment is quite normal! This compulsion to put your mouth on his sweet newborn skin when you catch a whiff of it is all part of the maternal instinct—and explains why we often call babies “delicious” and “yummy”!

The scent of a newborn baby is so captivating and all-consuming, specifically in moms because it impacts the reward systems in the brain, the very deep, old systems in our brain that involve dopamine — a primary neurotransmitter that influences mood, reward and motivation.

Study co-author Johannes Frasnelli, a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in the department of psychology at the University of Montreal explained, “These are the areas of the brain that are activated if you are very hungry and you finally get something to eat or if you are a drug addict and you finally get the drug you were craving.

“Apparently nature has provided us with a tool that helps with the bonding between a mother and her newborn child. It’s very strong.”

Study involving 30 women
In order to get some insight into why new baby smell affects the brain, a team of international researchers conducted a study. They recruited 30 non-smoking women, 15 of whom had given birth three to six weeks earlier, while the remaining 15 had never had any children.

Scientist acquired the ‘scent of newborn’ by taking t-shirts that infants had worn for two days and then freezing them in plastic bags. As a part of the study, the women were presented with either the baby essence or just fresh air while they underwent a brain scanner.

The analysis revealed that new moms experienced a surge of the pleasure chemical dopamine in the caudate nucleus (the brain’s reward center) even though the babies they were sniffing were not their own. On the other hand, the other women exhibited no such chemical jolt.

Though, experts didn’t dwell on the impact of newborn scent on dads, they theorize that fathers’ brains will also react.

The researchers concluded: “These results show that the odor of newborns undoubtedly plays a role in the development of motivational and emotional responses between mother and child by eliciting maternal care functions such as breastfeeding and protection. The mother-child bond that is part of the feeling of maternal love is a product of evolution through natural selection in an environment where such a bond is essential for the newborn’s survival.”

The new findings have been described in a study just published in Frontiers in Psychology.