A recent Japanese study published in the journal Chemical Senses suggests that the smell of babies provokes a chemical reaction in mothers’ brains, leading to positive feelings and an urge to care for them. In fact, this scent may be one of the factors that helps new mums stay relatively sane: the researchers found that when blindfolded mothers smelled a baby’s clothes, the prefrontal cortex of their brains showed increased activity, thus calming them down. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is control of rational thinking and general serenity – typical mum-like characteristics…
Interestingly, the effect only seems to apply to women who are already mothers:
“When confronted with clothes worn by infants, women with children had an 82 per cent detection rate and underwent significant changes in function… Meanwhile, the others had only 68 per cent success and showed virtually no variation in brain activity.”
As a point of comparison, the women were also given men’s clothes to smell, and the level of brain reaction was almost identical for both mothers and non-mothers.
I take it none of the clothes had sick on them then!
This research correlates with another recent study carried out by the University of Montreal, which shows that smelling a baby also releases feelgood dopamine; this deepens bonding and can also be related to how some mothers feel like “eating” their babies (me neither).
Thanks to the Daily Mail (who else?) who provided me with the original article!