Sense of smell starts developing as early as the 6th week of pregnancy. The olfactory neurons of a baby begin to process smell around 6 weeks and by 9 weeks, the baby begins to show two tiny nasal (nose) cavities. Later, the cavities open up and connect with the olfactory center. By late 6 months your baby becomes capable of identifying smells. At around 6 months, your baby starts swallowing amniotic fluid and as molecules of the food you eat pass into the amniotic fluid, your baby can smell what you have eaten. Studies have shown that newborns are able to identify certain strong flavoured food that you might have eaten during pregnancy, proving that your baby has memorized certain odors right from the womb.
At birth, the newborn sense of smell is quite developed. In fact, the olfactory (smell) development starts at as early as 6 months while the baby is in the mother's womb. Newborns are able to identify with their mother’s smell. They can distinguish their mother’s smell from that of any other woman. Since, it's the mother who is present with the child right after birth, they are more familiar and calmed by the odor of their mothers. Research studies over several years say that mothers are recognized by their newborns by the mere sense of smell. This is because the newborn is familiar with the smell of the mother from the time it was in her womb.
The familiarity in smell, particularly its parents’ smell, proves to be quite comforting for any child. The baby is able to distinguish a foreign smell easily. This also explains the fact that babies will seek comfort with a particular toy or blanket for its smell and why they will not like you to wash that blanket or toy.
A newborn is familiar with the smell of its mother’s milk and can identify its mother just by her smell. The smell of a mother's milk can be soothing to your newborn, especially during the vaccination period, which can be a stressful period for them.
Sense of smell is one way your baby develops strong ties with you as a mother. After all a mother’s scent is one of their early life discoveries! A child can identify the smell of foods that the mother ate when she was pregnant as molecules of food are passed to the baby through the amniotic fluid. This will determine the food preferences of the baby to a certain extent. It is also one of the reasons a mother should be careful with her food habits during pregnancy.