Did you know your little one can smell in the womb? Amniotic fluid can have a scent and a taste. Odours can become strongly attached to memories or emotions from day one. Have you ever smelled something that instantly took you back to a particular time in your life? This is called ‘olfactory memory’ when a smell triggers our memory.

Here’s what we understand about the role of smell during infancy:

  • Your baby will come to recognise your smell and become comforted by it. During your baby’s early months, you may wish to avoid using perfume or cologne so they can get to know your natural scent.

    If you do use a certain scent consistently, this smell can become connected with you in your child’s mind, so it could also become a source of comfort.
  • Newborns can smell breastmilk, which can help to soothe them. A good way to help your little one self-soothe is to give them a blanket or cloth that has some breast milk on it.
  • Using scents in playtime can help enhance happy memories of childhood. By lighting a particular incense, or keeping a certain flower in the house, or burning a specific candle during happy times, this smell could help relax your child as they grow up and trigger fond memories.
  • Some studies suggest that lavender and sweet almond oil can decrease stress in newborns.
  • Learning how to check in with our senses can calm our nervous system, and reduce anxiety. As your baby becomes a toddler, encourage them to think about what they can smell. At random times, ask them to list what they can smell, or what they can see, hear, taste or feel for that matter. Developing the habit of being connected with our senses can help to improve mental wellbeing.