Babies are notorious for their amazing, irresistible smell. Sweet and intoxicating, it's the kind of fragrance that makes your ovaries hurt just to think about. Of course, babies are also notorious for another odor that's less than amazing, but the good smell is so good it's worth the dirty diaper thing. Every single inch of your baby absolutely delicious... except, wait a minute, why do your baby's feet smell?
The first time you notice that your baby's feet actually smell like feet, it can come as quite a surprise. In fact, it can even be alarming. When my oldest was a baby, I remember being legitimately concerned when I took her shoes off one hot summer day and got a good whiff of unfettered foot. I wasn't even sure if babies feet were supposed to smell bad. Was this a sign of some underlying medical condition? Was I not bathing my daughter enough?
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. (Well, maybe my daughter was overdue for a bath, but that's another story.) As Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, explained for Parenting, it's actually normal for baby feet to smell from time to time.
"It's okay for feet to be stinky," said Dr. McCarthy.
"Nobody smells perfect, after all, and it isn't usually a health problem," she continued, adding that in very rare cases, smelly perspiration can be a sign of a metabolic illness or early puberty, but these conditions would be likely be marked by other symptoms as well. Basically, babies get food odor for the same reason adults do: Sweat. Bacteria thrive on damp, sweaty feet, which results in that trademark sock stench everyone knows all too well (even if it seems a little odd when those stinky socks are tiny and have pictures of bunnies on them). And interestingly enough, children's feet often sweat more than adult feet, as Dr. Rosario Labarbera, chief of podiatry at The General Hospital Center at Passaic and at Saint Mary's Hospital in Passaic, New Jersey, told Livestrong. So following that logic, it would be weird if your baby's feet didn't get smelly (especially when it's hot outside).
Another reason why babies tend have less than fresh tootsies: Those adorable little shoes and socks, as pediatrician Dr. David Gellar told BabyCenter.
"It's not unusual for children to have strong foot odor. Kids are active and often sweat all over their bodies. Since feet are frequently wrapped up in shoes and socks and 'breathe' very little, they tend to sweat the most and smell the worst," he said.
As for why the rest of your baby's body doesn't smell yet when she gets sweaty, you can chalk that one up to hormones (or the absence of, rather). As WebMd explained, damp armpits won't develop their trademark odor until puberty when hormones called androgens become active. (And boy, will they ever become active! As the parent of a teenager and a tween, I'm warning you now: Stock up on deodorant before middle school hits.)
Of course, your baby doesn't need any kind of actual foot deodorant to keep her smelling fresh. Keeping on top of basic hygiene will help, according to Dr. Gellar: Make sure your baby's feet stay as clean and dry as possible, and when she's indoors, take off her shoes and socks to give her feet a chance to air out. And, yes, bathe daily (or at least wash her feet, even if she doesn't get a full-on bath) to remove any bacteria, dirt, or dead skin that can contribute to odor. Also try to stay away from shoes and socks that aren't made from natural materials, as these tend to make feet even sweatier.
All the more reason to let those sweet little toes go bare whenever possible!