Entering into this world is a traumatic event and it is essential to minimize the negative effects thereof through providing the necessary comfort and assistance for baby to adapt to life outside of utero. A relaxed transition between these two worlds is essential to give a baby optimum opportunity to
grow and develop.
Recent research shows that genetics are not the only factor in depending the development of a baby’s brain. A baby’s environment is a major contributor to the development of a healthy brain. The physical and emotional experiences of a baby determine their learning ability for their entire life. Although primarily the process of pregnancy is focused on the growth of the baby, we often neglect the opportunities to start developing our babies and preparing them for life in the real world. The primary smell receptors are formed around 8 weeks of gestation and are functional as early as week 24 of gestation. The sense of smell plays a fundamental part in babies’ ability to adapt to their new environment and as such, acts as the base of the baby’s natural survival instinct. Their ability to taste and smell before birth, offer opportunities to start preparing for the outside world even before birth.
The most important way in which moms can help baby develop their sense of taste and smell in utero, is by following a nutritious diet. Babies smell and taste the amniotic fluid surrounding them rendering this to be their first introduction to food. Mimicking a womb like environment after birth is vitally important to keep baby calm and relaxed. The neurological pathway to the brain via the nose is extremely sensitive and therefore smell can influence baby’s comfort level negatively if not controlled.
8 ways in which parents can ensure a calm environment and therefore a relaxed baby:
1. Keeping all smells as neutral as possible. Babies can recognize their moms purely on smell within the first day of being born.
2. Moms should therefore not change any products they use for a minimum of 6 weeks after the birth of their babies.
3. Dads too, should steer clear of the use of any deodorants and strong scented shaving and other products to create a natural smelling environment and ensuring a pleasant first meeting.
4. Sleeping with the receiving blankets that will be used in hospital will ensure that mom’s smell is close by all the time creating a sense of security.
5. Swaddle baby in a blanket smelling of mom when new relatives come to visit to create a barrier between baby’s secure world and new acquaintances’ smells.
6. Introducing new smells should be done with caution as the nose membrane is thin at first and could easily be harmed.
7. When introducing new smells, be sure to expose baby to the most natural instead of second hand smells.
8. Touch baby’s nose and bring baby closer to the object (e.g flower) whilst naming the object baby is being introduced to.
Ilse Roth has been involved with BabyGym for many years and is passionate about giving babies the best start to life and equipping moms with the tools to do so.