Do babies recognize their mother’s scent? Can babies smell that they can already distinguish between other people’s scent and that of their mothers?

Scientists believe that babies become familiar with their mother’s scent early in life. The body system of the baby wires the scent to their brains. With frequent association—the scent plus the unique love and care they feel, especially when breastfeeding—result to the baby’s ability to identify their mother’s scent.

Actually, the findings were derived from animal tests. Kevin Franks and Jeffry Isaacson, both with PhDs (and whose works are featured on WebMD.Com), did the test with baby rats and concluded that the basic smell and identification processes may be similar among baby animals and humans. Smell is one of the ways in which babies build strong ties with their mothers, added the researchers who are connected with the neurosciences department of the University of California, San Diego.

Another doctor, Benjamin Philpot, PhD, said that baby smell and experience “becomes a powerful force forming the basis of a strong bond between infant and mother.” This happens especially during breastfeeding, when the baby is closest to smelling their mother’s skin. The satisfaction of feeding (and the care and love associated with being fed with milk), plus the smell, gives the baby the idea that the person with this smell gives it food and love, especially if the feeding is accompanied by gentle caresses and humming.

Repeated exposure to the pleasant experience makes the brain cells recognize the whole process, which is then “wired” into the baby’s brain. The emotions also pick up the signals and associate everything to an individual recognized and remembered dearly with time. The test with rats discovered that interruptions with smell were reflected in the rat’s brain development. This proved that the sense of smell is directly linked to brain cognizance, especially when the experience is often repeated.

Hence, it is important to be a hands-on mother or father if you want the baby to know you as their parents early in their lives. This is among the advantages of breastfeeding and setting aside quality time with your baby, giving them quality affection and care. In turn, they are only able to associate good things with your scent. The same process is true with the sense of sight, scientists believe.

When babies start using their eyes and always see and associate you with good things—milk feeding, carrying, singing, laughing, smiling, comforting, and the like—the baby will likely be able to more quickly identify you as someone dear and related to them. In fact, they would feel loved by you.

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