If you have a newborn, or are about to have a newborn, you will catch yourself resting your nose against their head, taking a deep inhale and wondering, “Why do babies smell so good?” Because the fact is, your baby does smell good. They’re kind of designed to smell good, particularly for those first weeks. But at some point the smells your baby produces become more diverse and, potentially, starts making you wonder why they smell so god awful.
That new-baby smell is a real thing. Some suggest it could be linked to the lingering scent of amniotic fluid on a babies skin, which doesn’t seem like it should smell great, but whatever. Others suggest the baby scent comes from the vernix caseosa — a waxy substance on newborns that protected their skin from the amniotic fluid in the first place. Whatever it is, the smell is designed to jack into the parental brain to create a pleasurable response.
Those are the first smells. As they grow, their shit begins to stink (though it doesn’t at first!) and they start bringing a whole other genre of odor to the house. Ultimately your baby will produce a bunch of smells. Some of them will be delightful and some of them might be downright concerning. Here, we rank them all, from the blowout that you need a scented steam cleaner to entirely escape to the bliss that is pure, unadulterated new baby smell.
12. The Blowout
It’s not that the blowout necessarily smells worse, though, yeah, it can, particularly if it’s due to diarrhea. But what makes a blowout the worst is simply how much poop smell there is to manage. It’s on the onsie, in their baby pants, up in the folds of their neck. Then, without proper management it’s on the changing table and, god forbid, you. Blowout stink lingers. And you might find yourself, later in the day getting odd whiffs of it, sure you missed something. Welcome to the shit show.
11. The First Solid Food Poop
Up until your kid starts eating solid food, you might actually feel like you’ve got this diaper thing down. If your kid is breastfeeding, the poops might not smell that bad at all. But then your kid starts eating solid food, and faced with new digestive challenges starts churning out a veritable melange of foul smells. Now you remember: Oh, right. Shit stinks.
10. The Secret Poop
The secret poop is the one that you never noticed until your kid started fusing. Who knows how long it’s been trapped down their between their buttcheeks. The smell of this one starts as subtle hint of filth under baby clothes, inspiring parents to get closer and investigate their suspicions by pulling out the elastic of the diaper and taking a sniff. All of a sudden — Bam! — the secret poop hits you with all of it’s old poop stench.
The thing about spit-up is that it’s pretty closely related to vomit in that it has spent some time in the stomach. Because stomach acids are breaking down the food that comes up when a baby spits-up, it will often land on a parent, a rug, or a piece of furniture with a sharp, acidic tang that tends to linger.
8. Milky Baby Fat Folds
A pre-bath baby who is a particularly sloppy eater can get breast milk in their fat folds. Breastmilk, like other mammalian milk, can spoil. That means a baby can start smelling a bit cheesy if parents don’t take care to get a clean cloth into their baby’s crevices.
7. Freshly Diapered Baby
This smell might be pleasant simply because it’s related to bad smells smells going away. Either way, a baby that has been wiped down, lotioned and put in a new diaper is literally a breath of fresh air.
6. The First Poop
The first poop resides at the halfway point of the rankings because it sits perfectly between good and bad. The thing is that you may expect the first poops to be foul, and give their black tar consistency, by all rights they should. But incredibly, the first baby poops don’t smell like much at all. And that trend continues even as they start feeding on breast milk. Sadly, it does not last. The horror is coming.
5. Little Bit Sweaty Baby
When we sweat, we give off a musk. It can be pleasant, or not so pleasant, but either way it’s a heavy and obvious odor. When babies sweat, after a hard crawl in the park, instead you get a delicate scent that is equal parts new baby smell (see below) and salty ocean air. It’s as if everything’s still pure on the inside and their sweat is proof.
4. Post-Bath Baby
The smell of a baby after a bath has a lot to do with the smell of the soap you use on them. Most of those soaps are “unscented” but still carry a vaguely soapy smell. It’s not floral, but it’s clean and makes for some good playful post-bath neck sniffing.
3. A Baby Back In from Outside
Whether it’s the crisp, cold scent of winter outdoors, mixed with the smell of warm woolen clothes; the smell of grass and fall leaves clinging to flannel, or the smell of light perspiration on a light summer onesie, a baby brought in from outside is like Febreeze for the soul.
2. Newborn Smell
The fist best baby smell is an odd one to describe. When they arrive from the womb and are placed into your arms for the first time, they smell like, fresh baby. For a postnatal mother’s hyper-sensitive sense of smell, the scent will be downright intoxicating, but dads should get a whiff too. It only lasts about six weeks.
1. Strawberry Breath
At some point, your baby will be able to eat solid food and while breast milk breath can be nice and sweet, there’s no greater smell than that of fresh strawberries on the breath of a child. It’s a miraculous scent. Your kid, yet to carry the bacteria that leads to bad breath, Ttakes that strawberry, breaks it down in their mouth, and somehow creates a pure, sweet, warm strawberry scent. More strawberries, kiddo?