What Causes the Smell of a New Baby? 

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If you’ve ever gotten up close to a newborn and breathed deeply, you know exactly what we’re talking about. It’s nearly impossible to describe the scent of a newborn baby, especially since each baby seems to have his or her own. Additionally, it’s not simply baby shampoo and soiled diapers; frequently, you won’t even be able to tell what it is. And then all of a sudden, it vanishes, frequently without your knowledge. So what is that “new baby smell,” exactly?

Nobody is entirely certain. According to CNN, “old people smell” is “a recognized body odor that can’t be fully explained by hygiene, food, or other environmental oddities,” and a 2012 research did discover evidence of it. One of the study’s authors proposed the hypothesis that a fragrance associated with a certain age group may be an evolutionary artifact intended to aid people in making mating decisions. It is also not improbable that newborns may also have their own fragrance, but perhaps not so much for mating.

That fresh newborn smell might also have an evolutionary function, such as making it easier for a mother to recognize her child, much to how infants can almost instantly recognize their moms by smell. Numerous studies have revealed that most moms can recognize their infants just by smell. Additionally, it might facilitate a mother’s ability to form a bond with her child. According to a 2013 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, women’s reward centers lit up when they received an undershirt with a baby’s aroma on it (not their own baby’s scent). Whether the women were already moms or not, this was true. Fathers may also benefit from it. Fathers who smelled their newborns showed a decrease in testosterone, according to a 2008 study of marmoset monkeys. This could make them “more tolerant toward his infants while facing external challenges that might distract him from focusing on his infant and family needs,” the study stated.

According to some theories, the scent of a brand-new infant is actually a mixture of amniotic fluid, bacteria, breast milk, and other substances you wouldn’t often find in a sweet-smelling fragrance. (A scientist claimed to have 250 different substances in it, according to the Washington Post.) And since there are still so many unanswered issues about what it is and why it exists, it is regrettable to state that it is highly unlikely to be recreated perfectly. So, don’t be shocked if you’re transported back to those newborn days and can recall your kid’s scent when you open a box of old baby clothing and smell the familiar detergent, soap, powder, and fabric.