How Moms Smell After Birth Entices Dads to Take Care of Babies
As a parenting writer, I cover a lot of sometimes strange news. Everything from how babies' cells actually live in our bodies forever to one time I chatted with Shaq's mom on the phone for an interview. Especially when it comes to pregnancy and parenting news, there's always something weird and slightly unsettling coming out in the news. But this news, I admit, sounds strange even to me.
According to a new study, the way that a mother smells after birth actually influences how a father will take care of the baby. And even more enticing, it's not just the way she smells, but particularly her postpartum aroma that particularly influences men. Weird, right?
The study noted that the affinity for how smell will influence a man's desire to care for a baby actually starts during pregnancy, when the smells of pregnant women (um, what?) will start to stir his fatherly instincts. It wasn't until the men were exposed to the alluring scents of a freshly postpartum woman, however, that they really started to show some interest in babies. (Again, um, what?)
The study only involved 91 men, so it was a fairly small study, and it used “odors” from cotton patches that were sewn into mother's shirts–the study did not specify where exactly those odors were coming from and frankly, I'm afraid to do more research and find out, so we'll just go with it–from 5 women, divided into three different categories of early pregnancy, late pregnancy, and after giving birth.
Apparently, according to the study, the more men were exposed to the smell of postpartum women, the longer they were interested in looking at a baby's face, which the researchers then took to be correlated to their own interest in caring for babies. The findings, according to the researchers, were “significant,” so apparently, there was a big change in the mens' interest in babies after being exposed to those sweet, sweet smells. More interest in babies = higher likelihood to take care of said babies. Makes total sense, right?
“Our findings can be seen as providing the first evidence that brief exposure to post-pregnancy females’ body odor is sufficient to induce psychological and behavioral changes related to infant care,” the authors' study stated. “We found that brief exposure to postpartum odors significantly increased the regard value of infant faces.”
I honestly don't know what to say about this study. On one hand, how cool that nature's design is set up to entice men to pitch in and do their part to take care of the baby so mom can heal and rest, but on the other hand, it just creeps me out just a little bit. Maybe because I was once a labor and delivery nurse, and I'm pretty familiar with all of the different odors that can come along with pregnancy and postpartum and maybe because I've also had four babies already, so again, I'm well acquainted with the sights and smells of that delightful fourth trimester as well. And it's definitely not exactly a bouquet of roses, if you get my drift.
For me, the postpartum time is a weird time of profuse night sweats to shed all of that extra fluid I accumulated during pregnancy, the sweet stickiness of breast milk coming in in overflowing amounts, and the super weird lochia that always seems to catch me by surprise. As the days go by in a haze, it can be difficult to remember when you last showered or put on deodorant and honestly, it's just not a time in my life when I'm feeling “fresh” by any means. I can't in million years ever think that any of that would be something that would make my husband wander over, take a few sniffs, and suddenly be inspired to be SuperDad. If anything, I would think it would chase him far, far away to leave me alone to deal with a squalling newborn in my sweaty sheets.
But hey, who am I to question the ways of nature? If the way I smell after giving birth entices my husband to get up with the baby more at night, or change a few extra diapers, then I guess that's just a cross I'll have to bear.
What do you think of the study: cool or slightly disturbing?