Sense of Smell

The Sense of Smell


Smell is the most advanced, out of the five senses, present in babies at the time of birth.


Taste and smell are chemical senses; they process information by processing chemical changes in the air and in objects on the tongue. These are primitive sensory systems that are intimately involved with early developmental activities such as feeding, eating, and recognizing family members compared to strangers. In this way, these are protective senses


Infants during the first week, primarily differentiate between two things and people, using their sense of smell.


They pick up on the new odours and associate these smells to certain things or people. Babies use their sense of smell mostly to stay close to their mother – it is advisable not to wear perfume in the early months for this reason.


The sweet scent of lavender or aroma of a cake being baked actually makes a child happier.

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Smelling Sense in a Baby

  • Using their sense of smell, babies can differentiate between their mother’s breast milk from that of other mothers. A 3 or 4 day old infant recognizes the smell of his/her mother’s breast milk. Just the smell of it makes them happy and contended. Infants are seen to smile at the odors, which are similar to bananas and vanilla.
  • Studies show that infants select and play with a vanilla scented toy more frequently, than with toys that are ethanol-scented or unscented.
  • Infants prefer the smell of a lactating woman over a non-lactating woman.
  • As sense of smell develops in a baby, he/she can associate good smells and aromas with good feelings. Soft fragrance used in a massage can soothe and delight the baby. And they will relate that smell- eg lavender
  • An infant’s sense of smell develops as he/she grow bigger. He/she can distinguish different smells easily. By the age of one, most babies can recognize the smells of other adults and children. They are also able to differentiate the smells of different foods and associate smell with experiences.
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