From stuffed bears and bunnies to baby-sized blankets that toddlers drag around relentlessly, if your child is attached to it in some way, it qualifies as a lovey. While kids can definitely develop attachments to loveys, there are some incredible things that happen when getting baby attached to a lovey with mom's scent on it. Loveys may come in all shapes and sizes, but a mom's scent is unique to her, giving a lovey that mom has slept with or wrapped her shirt around a special connection for a child.
When a baby is born, they can't yet make sense of what they see and hear, so they rely heavily on taste and scent. "Newborn babies have a strong oral impulse — that is, the impulse to feed — which is driven by their instinct to suck. This instinct is related to a sense of smell and taste. In utero, they are surrounded by amniotic fluid, and there is some evidence that babies taste and smell their mother’s amniotic fluid. As such, by the time they were born, there is reason to believe that they may even recognize, to some degree, their mother’s scent," Dr. Michael Mintz, a psychologist with Children's National Hospital tells Romper.
A baby's ability to recognize their mom's scent is what helps these five incredible things happen when a lovey has mom's scent. As a mom, I am well-versed in the practical reasoning behind my kids' desire to snuggle with a lovey — they definitely helped to keep my kids calm as babies and toddlers. While I had definitely heard the advice to apply my scent to their lovey for extra comfort, I never knew just how my own scent on their lovey impacted them until now.
1. Your Child Will Feel Extra Comforted
"There is ample research showing that newborn babies are drawn to their mother's milk (and even their mother’s colostrum during the perinatal period). The emotional attachment becomes stronger as the newborn baby associates these flavors and scents with the warmth and comfort of nursing," Mintz explains. When a lovey has this same scent, those feelings of comfort can occur even without mom being present.
Even babies who are not breastfed can associate feelings of comfort with a lovey that bears mom's scent. "For caregivers who do not nurse (including fathers), their newborn may start to associate his or her caregiver’s body odor with the warmth and comfort of bottle-feeding, snuggling, or being rocked," Mintz says.
Because a lovey with a mom's scent can bring comfort in stressful situations, it is important to make sure you have a backup lovey on hand just in case your child's main lovey gets misplaced to avoid a meltdown of epic proportions.
2. Good Feelings Can Be Triggered
Have you ever gotten a whiff of your favorite perfume or a food you love and felt your mood immediately lift? You can thank science for this, according to Mintz. "The sense of smell is closely connected with emotion and memory," Mintz explains. "The olfactory bulb has direct connections to parts of the brain that are strongly associated with emotion and memory (the amygdala and the hippocampus). For this reason, it’s quite common for a smell to trigger a vivid memory, an emotional response, or a memory with a strong emotional component."
When you give a fussy baby a lovey that has mom's scent, you might notice that they calm down pretty quickly. This is in part thanks to the good feelings that can be triggered by smelling a lovey with mom's scent.
3. Your Child May Fall Asleep More Easily
"While I am not aware of any research indicating that sleeping alongside a caregiver's scent can improve a baby’s sleep, I believe that the scent can be reassuring and comforting to a baby and that the scent might help a baby fall asleep," Mintz tells Romper.
Anecdotal evidence that a lovey with a mom's scent will help a baby fall asleep easily can be found in threads on mom groups across the internet, such as on the What To Expect forum. It's one of those tricks of the trade that you don't necessarily learn until you have a baby who is having a hard time falling asleep. "I think that the scent can be particularly soothing later in infancy (i.e. well after the newborn period), as parents begin to introduce sleep-training techniques," Mintz says. "A baby who is accustomed to being rocked or nursed to sleep might find the scent soothing."
4. Separation Anxiety May Be Reduced
If you've ever attempted to leave your child somewhere new where you won't be nearby, you may have experienced the crying and anxious feelings that can sometimes surface in kids who are experiencing something new without mom or dad around. This type of separation anxiety can be quelled with some comfort in the form of a lovey with mom's scent on it.
"As times passes, a young infant may start to associate the scent of a caregiver with the feeling of being safe and secure. Some parents even make an effort to put their scent onto a lovey, blanket, or stuffed animal so that their baby can smell them even when they are not around," Mintz says.
5. Your Child Is Developing Emotional Independence
Loveys are also referred to as transitional objects due to the fact that they allow a child to more easily transition from one event to another, which is especially true when the object has a scent connection. When a child uses a lovey with mom's scent to help soothe themselves, they are actually doing the hard work of developing emotional independence.
"In toddlerhood, a transitional object can help a toddler tolerate unfamiliar or new people or new situations without relying on as much physical support (such as being held, carried, or hugged) as infants often need," Mintz says. "Most importantly, a transitional object reflects a step in the direction of more emotional independence; although the child does not feel alone (because she or he has the transitional object), she or he is ultimately the one doing the work of settling, soothing, calming down, etc."
Dr. Michael Mintz, Clinical Psychologist at Children’s National Hospital