November 4, 2012
Pure Magic: A Mom and Her Baby
Guess what, moms? Your baby loves how you smell, from the first moment of life.
I don’t mean your soap or perfume. I mean your natural, distinct odor. She recognizes your scent, and she loves it.
If she just arrived in this world, how can she recognize your smell?
This is one of those instances where science makes me smile. The answer is: because she’s been swimming in it for nine months.
It turns out that a woman’s amniotic fluid, which surrounds her developing fetus, smells and tastes like she does. The fetus develops the ability to sense these qualities from early in gestation. So at birth, a mother’s unique scent is well-known to her baby.
Newborns are soothed, when separated from their mothers, by exposure to a cotton pad with the odor of her breast or her amniotic fluid. They cry for significantly shorter periods of time.
We all know how powerful a familiar scent can be; how one whiff can transport us to a different world. A newborn has been jolted into a harsh, new reality of bright lights, loud noises, cold, hunger, and pain. Just imagine: any reminder of the perfect life she left behind must be heavenly. Is it any wonder she cries for her mother day and night?
This biology is fun to know, but it’s also relevant to many of the debates on social issues we face. Some argue for “the new normal” – donated eggs and sperm, wombs for rent, two mothers or two fathers. They contend that biological relationships are disposable, and that male or female, father or mother – they’re all the same to a child.
Science has a different message. Science says male and female are unique, and that biological relationships are profound and irreplaceable, especially the one between a mother and her infant. In both animals and humans, there’s nothing like it.
Biological truths are not always politically correct, and ignoring them can be hazardous.
Stay tuned for more blogs about the magic between moms and their babies, and how it undermines “the new normal”.
Varendi, H. (1998) Soothing effect of amniotic fluid smell in newborn infants
Early Human Development Volume 51, Issue 1 , Pages 47-55
PORTER, R. H., and WINBERG, J. (1999). Unique salience of maternal
breast odors for newborn infants. Neurosci. Biobehav. R. 23:439–449.