The Scientific Reason Why Newborn Babies Smell So Good

There's a reason why we can't get enough!
Sleeping baby
byakkaya via Getty Images
Sleeping baby

What I miss most about the newborn baby stage is the smell — and I know most of you know what I’m talking about.

The newborn baby smell seems like a mystery, the sweet, natural smell of baby. The only way I can really describe it is that it smells

But is it actually a thing?

Recently we found out that teenagers can be smelly because of steroids that are introduced to the body during puberty.

So what’s the deal with the baby smell? Is it psychological?

Why do newborn babies smell so good?

Dr Giuseppe Aragona, GP and Online Doctor for Prescription Doctor explains exactly why newborns have the distinct smell.

He said: “The distinctive smell of newborns, often described as a pleasant and fresh scent, can be attributed to several factors from a medical perspective.

“Firstly, newborns are coated in vernix caseosa at birth, a white, waxy substance made up of sebum and shed skin cells that protects their skin in the womb.

“This vernix, even after being mostly wiped off, leaves a residual scent. Additionally, amniotic fluid, which surrounds the baby throughout pregnancy, has its own unique odour that can linger on the newborn’s skin.”

Another factor is the natural oils produced by the newborn’s skin, which can carry a subtle fragrance, explains Dr Aragona.

He adds that newborns have a high concentration of sweat glands, particularly eccrine glands, which might contribute to their distinct smell.

Lastly, he explains the scent could play a biological role in promoting bonding between the baby and parents, potentially triggering caregiving behaviours through an emotional and instinctual response.

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that the smell of babies triggers the brain’s reward centres, which are also activated by certain foods.

Researchers extracted fresh baby smell from the pyjamas of two-day-old infants and presented them to two groups of women. One group was composed of 15 mothers and the other of 15 women who had not given birth.

The results, as explained by the Christian Science Monitor, showed that mothers and non-mothers alike responded similarly to the smell of newborns.

“The smells were shown to elicit activation in the women’s brains’ reward circuits,” according to the CS Monitor.

So if you can’t get enough of the baby smell, there’s a scientific reason for it!