The reason you like sniffing newborns is the same reason people like hard drugs.

Please forgive me if I smell your newborn.

I’m not sussing out whether he needs a change.

(I’ll leave that to you)

No, I actually can’t help myself.

It’s science you see.

The answer to all those mothers’ group questions about why strangers seem drawn to newborns and why old ladies in shopping centres seem to be unable to control themselves from touching our babies lies in science.

Its been shown that, in fact ,the smell of a baby excites a woman in the same way an drug addict feels about his fix.

Those old ladies are literally getting high on your newborn.

Aren't they just delicious? Via IStock.

A study has found that a newborn's smell provokes a chemical communication between mother and baby – and even provokes a reaction in women not related to the infant.

In the study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology researchers asked 30 women — 15 who had recently given birth, and 15 who had never given birth — to identify mystery scents while their brain activity was monitored when given the smell of newborns taken from pyjamas.

The study said that  “non-human mammals have identified olfactory signals as prime mediators of mother-infant bonding and they have been linked with maternal attitudes and behavior in our own species as well.”

“We contrasted the cerebral activity underlying the processing of infant odor properties in 15 women newly given birth for the first time and 15 women not given birth while smelling the body odor of unfamiliar 2 day-old newborn infants. Maternal status-dependent activity was demonstrated in the thalamus when exposed to the body odor of a newly born infant. Subsequent regions of interest analyses indicated that dopaminergic neostriatal areas are active in maternal-dependent responses. Taken together, these data suggests that body odors from 2 day-old newborns elicit activation in reward-related cerebral areas in women, regardless of their maternal status.”

You get that? Na, me neither. But its been interpreted for me.

What it means is that when sniffing the baby's PJs women all showed activity in the same dopamine pathways that light up after ingesting cocaine, enjoying food, having sex or other reward-inducing behaviour.


The reactions were observed in all the women, though they were stronger in the new mothers.

Study author, Johan Lundström, believes that women’s brains are hardwired this way to provide an evolutionary incentive.

“We think that this is part of a mechanism to focus the mother’s attention toward the baby,” he said.

He indicated to The New York Times that while not proven the same theory could exist for men.

What do Aussie babies smell of? Via IStock.

So what is the smell we are all getting our kicks outa?

Well the study found that as the smell is usually gone by the time the baby is six weeks old they speculated that it could be remnants of the vernix caseosa - the white, cheesy, substance that covers babies when they emerge from the uterus.

Or perhaps the lingering tinge of amniotic fluid.

Delicious right?

As an interesting side note The New York Times writes that the olfactory sensations associated with babies vary from country to country.

In Europe scents marketed as “baby fresh” tend to be heavy on orange blossom, while the U.S. prefers vanilla and powdery aromas.

What do you think Australian babies smell of?

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