Smell Strengthens the Bond Between Mother and Child-Part 1

When it's time for the mother to feed her baby, she cuddles her baby in her arms and brings him/her to her breast. The mother then motions to fill the baby's mouth with her nipple but sometimes the baby does not awaken, but without even opening his/her eyes, the baby naturally turns toward the mother's nipple.

The baby's sense of smell is able to distinguish the mother's skin's smell as well as the mother's nipples smell, which ultimately are helping the existence of this little baby by guiding the baby to smells that are critical for finding mother's milk.

The Power of Perfume

Studies in phylogeny suggest that the sense of smell has become weaker through evolution. The area dedicated to the sense of smell in the brain of humans is significantly smaller than the area designated in the brain of cats and dogs. If we examine this from the viewpoint of receiving information, the sense of sight and hearing is much more critical for the existence of humans, than the sense of smell. It is much more efficient for humans to designate a larger portion of their brain to sight or sound, as those senses give the human more important information for staying alive.

However, we can say that although anatomically and physiologically, humans have progressed, and that the space for which humans make their life in the ecological system, has also evolved, we cannot dismiss the importance of smell. The bond between mother and child can be considered a prototype for all subsequent relationships to come in the child's life, and can also be referred to as the most "essential" of all human relationships.

Another type of essential human relationship is that between husband and wife or man and woman. The reason why women prefer to wear perfume has also to do with the sense of smell. Indulge me while I speculate that the art of perfume has made the sense of smell almost into an artistic entity, and enhances that strength of the relationship between man and woman. It is, however a fact, that there is a significant amount of an effective component in perfume that triggers sexual arousal.

The Development of the Child from 2 days Old to 5 days old.

I would now like to return to the subject of babies. Even newborns are able to distinguish the smell of a strong repulsive smell of a medicinal herb and the aromatic smell of anise, an herb often used in soap or toothpaste. It is, however, difficult to explain the bond between mother and child by using herbs. Thus, there was a study conducted which used the cloths, one soaked with the mother's breast milk, and another one that was identical but without the mother's breast milk.

When they brought the mother's breast milk doused cloth and the neutral cloth near the baby's face on both sides, the baby turned his/her head for a significant amount of time towards the cloth that smelled of the mother's breast milk. However, at 2 days old, another study indicated that the baby could not decipher between a cloth used by his/her own mother and that used by another mother. But by 5 or 6 days old, the baby could identify the smell of the mother's breast milk doused cloth, compared to another woman's breast milk doused cloth. Not only did the baby turn towards his/her own mother's breast milk doused cloth, but would begin to act as though s/he was ready to suck on nipple. This indicates that by 5 days old, the sense of smell has developed almost to its fullest capacity.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1981). "Nioi mo haha to ko no kizuna wo tuyokusuru - 1"(written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved June 1, 2002, from the World Wide Web:
Write a comment

*CRN reserves the right to post only those comments that abide by the terms of use of the website.


Japan Today

CRN Child Science Exchange Program in Asia

About CRN

About Child Science


Honorary Director's Blog