The World According to Babies

Smell

close-up of baby's face

Your baby developed the ability to smell when you were six months pregnant. In fact, since this sense actually increases from birth to age 8, your child's powers of odor detection will be better than yours for a few years, says Lise Eliot, PhD, author of What's Going On in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. He'll use this sense to explore his world -- and get to know you, since he can detect you by the unique scent of your breast milk before he's a week old!

Scent Savvy

Here are some tips to help you comfort and connect with your baby.

  • Use the same shampoo, soap, and deodorant. Your baby likes familiar smells.
  • Make sure your husband uses the same products consistently as well. It will help your child bond with Dad.
  • Give your baby one of your unwashed shirts to comfort him when he's upset.
  • Send your husband sometimes to soothe your baby when your little one can't sleep but doesn't need a feeding. The smell of breast milk makes infants more alert.

Even newborns can benefit from a little aromatherapy. A 2005 study from Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that babies were comforted after medical procedures by the scent of vanilla.

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