What a ‘new baby smell’ does for moms
The “new baby smell” that new moms know all too well may serve a biological purpose that transcends “cuteness.” Researchers recently discovered that the smell of a newborn actually triggers powerful responses in parts of women’s brains associated with reward.
“What we have shown for the first time is that the odor of newborns, which is part of these signals, activates the neurological reward circuit in mothers. These circuits may especially be activated when you eat while being very hungry, but also in a craving addict receiving his drug,” said Johannes Frasnelli, a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychology, in a statement.
For their experiment, the researchers presented two groups of 15 women with the odors of others’ newborns while the women were subjected to brain imaging tests. The first group was composed of women who had given birth 3-6 weeks prior to the experiment, and the other group consisted of women who had never given birth.
Although the women in both groups perceived the odor of newborns with the same intensity, brain imaging showed greater brain response from mothers compared to the women who had never given birth.
Mother-infant bonding is crucial, and if an infant’s smell brings a mother closer to her baby, it’s a good thing, according to Jennifer Johnson, RNC, BSN, ICCE, a perinatal education coordinator at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “Skin to skin contact has become the new standard of care due to the undeniable amount of research to support the benefits for both mother and baby.”
According to Johnson, new moms bonding with their babies helps reduce stress, improve interactions with the infant and help to enhance attachment. Among the benefits that the baby experiences are temperature regulation, stable heart and respiratory rates and improved sleep patterns.
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