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  • If youve been around a newborn baby, you might have noticed that they smell just ... good.

  • For a while, lots of people thought this mild, pleasant scent was just baby powder or sweet-smelling wipes.

  • Others claimed it was just a myth, a hallucination by sleep-deprived new parents.

  • But, just like new house smell and new car smell, new baby smell is real!

  • But what exactly causes this special scent, and why do scientists think it might be an evolutionary benefit for mothers and their babies?

  • Our body odors are made of lots of different secreted chemicals, but it’s hard to figure out how each one contributes to our natural smells.

  • And newborn baby smell is extra hard to study, because the scent is usually gone after about 6 weeks.

  • Researchers think one factor could be leftover amniotic fluid, which is the protective substance that surrounds the embryo as it grows.

  • Plus, there might be traces of vernix caseosa, a white-ish layer of waxy oils and cells that coats babiesskin when theyre born.

  • But even though we don’t know exactly what causes this scent, scientists want to understand why it exists.

  • A 2013 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found evidence that suggests this scent may affect certain brain regions of all women, but especially new mothers.

  • To test this, they rounded up a group of 30 women that were about the same age: 15 who had given birth within the previous six weeks, and 15 who had never given birth.

  • The researchers isolated baby smell from baby pajamas, specifically, from 18 newborns that weren’t related to any of the participants.

  • Then they had the women smell the newborn odors while undergoing brain scans.

  • All of the women showed activity in the reward-related areas of the brain.

  • There was slightly more brain activity in new moms.

  • Basically, the researchers think that the smell might act as a sort of incentive: to get the new moms to feel pleasure when they take care of babies.

  • This could promote more maternal care, and offset some of the exhaustion and hard work of parenting.

  • But what about new dads? Are they affected by this baby smell too?

  • Well, we still have a lot to learn about the smell of newborn babies.