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Will a Mom's Scent Help a Baby Sleep Longer?

by Sara Ipatenco, studioD

Your baby can't greet you with words of recognition, but from birth, your little one knows you're mom. Your infant recognizes your voice and your touch, but your scent is also a powerful recognition cue. In fact, being exposed to your distinctive smell can calm your baby and reduce her stress. While it doesn't work for all babies, many infants can be soothed to sleep more quickly, as well as sleep longer, when snuggled with something that smells like you.

Mom's Scent

The ability to recognize mom by scent is a powerful survival tool for your little one, especially if you breastfeed. Infants rely on their sense of smell to recognize the scent of their mother's nipples, which ensures that it's mom doing the feeding, according to Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler, authors of "Your Baby's First Year Week by Week." Your distinctive scent also helps calm and soothe your baby because she associates you with comfort and security. For that reason, simply smelling your scent might help your baby settle down, which can encourage longer periods of more restful sleep.


If your baby immediately calms down when you're holding her, she might be likely to fall asleep faster when she can smell you, even if you're not in the same room, according to Suzy Giordano and Lisa Abidin, authors of "The Baby Sleep Solution." Infusing your baby's pajamas or blanket with your scent is an easy way to do that. Carry or sleep with the pajamas or blanket up against your bare skin for two or three days, which will transfer your scent to the fabric. Dress your baby in the pajamas or swaddle her in the blanket, and she'll be able to smell you, which might encourage her to fall asleep faster. In fact, according to a 2007 article published in the "Journal of Perinatology," both premature and full-term infants stop crying more quickly when they're exposed to their mother's scent, which might enable babies to fall asleep faster because they're content. These babies are also more likely to initiate the suckling reflex, which can also soothe infants and help encourage sleep. Keep a rotation of items you transfer your scent to so you always have something on hand to encourage better sleep for your little one.

Safety Considerations

Many moms give their baby a shirt they've worn several times or their own thick blanket. Only transfer your scent to your baby's things, however, such as clothing or blankets. Putting soft materials, such as thick blankets, pillows and even certain articles of clothing pose a suffocation risk to your little one. If the items that smell like you get over her mouth and nose, she won't be able to breathe. Your scent doesn't need to be right under her nose to be beneficial; you're baby will be able to smell you on her clothing or a thin receiving swaddle blanket. Furthermore, thick bedding and clothing can cause your baby to become overheated, which increases her risk of sudden infant death syndrome, according to the KidsHealth website.

Additional Sleep Tips

Many retail stores sell wool-stuffed dolls specifically made to absorb your scent and help soothe your baby. Older babies and toddlers can use these dolls, but young babies shouldn't because they increase the risk of suffocation. If your baby still has a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, try singing, rocking and snuggling her until she's drowsy. Then put her in her crib and let her fall asleep on her own. This teaches her to soothe herself, but it also supplies her with the comfort and security she needs from you. Make your baby's sleep environment as conducive to sleep as possible, too. Eliminate loud noises, introduce soft lullaby music and keep the lights low. Providing a comfortable environment is an effective way to help your baby become a better sleeper.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

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