The neurobiology of birth has one purpose: to create a caring bond between the mother and her infant. Nature does not only seek to secure the survival of the young human, but to gain maximum emotional, social and physical fitness.
If there is something all new parents find out it is that their infant´s heads have an astounding smell. Scientists have analyzed the chemical composition of these smells, gaining more insight about the shaping and development of mother-infant relationships.
I love the smell of my baby
For many years, where newborns´ particular smell came from was not clear. Was it their sweat? Some leftover substance from birth? Amniotic fluid? Now, a team directed by Mamiki Ozaki, professor from Kobe University, has been the first to identify the chemical composition if the smell produced by newborn babies´ heads.
The new study analyzed both the chemical composition and the psychological impact of baby´s head odor, to understand how that sweet smell may help newborns to get their mother´s attention.
For the study, special caps were put on five newborn babies’ heads, to absorb the smell; then, the mothers´ amniotic fluids were also analyzed. And in that moment, Ozaki´s team made their first revolutionary discovery: even though many scientists believed that the smell of baby´s head was given by the amniotic fluid, the chemical analysis showed that the composition of the two was different. This means there really is something special about baby´s head smell.
Also, compared to samples taken a few days after birth, the neonatal samples were much more distinct than later on – which means that a newborn infant has a more distinctive, personal smell during the first hours after birth than as the days go by.
For nature – and its neurobiological expression – it is imperative that mother recognizes her newborn as her own right away, and the smell of baby´s head has just been shown to be a potent signal. Perhaps the use of caps/hats in the immediate neonatal setting needs to be revised…