For Moms, Smell of Newborns Is Like a Drug

Study shows that mothers' brains light up with pleasure at the scent

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 24, 2013 6:23 PM CDT

(Newser) – The smell of a newborn isn't just a pleasant sensation for moms—it might be closer to an addiction, a new study suggests. Montreal researchers found that when women who had given birth recently smelled an infants' pajamas, their brains' reward circuits lit up, reports LiveScience. The dopamine surge that resulted was similar to that experienced by someone satisfying a craving for drugs, or a hungry person digging into a meal. "This circuit makes us desire certain foods and causes addiction to tobacco and other drugs," one of the University of Montreal researcher explains via the CBC.

It's not clear whether moms undergo some kind of hormonal change during childbirth that causes the reaction, but their "reward" response was far more pronounced than that of women who had never given birth, reports the Christian Science Monitor. It adds that the study might help explain that age-old line of "I want to eat you up" spoken to many a baby. Think of it as "a carefully concocted perfume of biological manipulation, evolved to trigger maternal bonding," says a blog post at Smithsonian. (Another odd olfactory surprise turned up recently, one that sheds light on why corked wine smells so bad.)

  (Shutterstock)
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