Researchers from Kobe University, Hamamatsu University of Medicine, Iwate University and Tsukuba University have published a study surrounding the effect of newborn odors on attachment. Led by Professor Mamiko Ozaki, the team has identified the chemical composition that newborns emit, specifically from their heads, and the study has shown that one of the main aspects of bonding are due to the olfactory response.
By pain-free and stress-free methods, the researchers were able to sample babies' heads to study exactly what smells they produce. After sampling the odors and studying their make-up, the team looked into the psychological response in accordance to these specific smells. It is thought that these odors are nature's way of promoting care for the infant.
Published in the Scientific Reports journal, the team hopes that this study will give a better understanding of maternal attachment to babies, in addition to helping with attachment issues between mothers and their babies.
Researchers explain that the olfactory response in terms of attachment, specifically highlighting the chemical components of newborn odors, hasn't yet been profoundly investigated. The team took chemical samples of both newborn babies' heads as well as the odors emitted by the amniotic fluid.
"Thirty seven volatile odor components were identified in the GCxGC-MS analytical results aggregated for all the odor samples (five babies' heads and two amniotic fluid samples)," says ScienceDaily. Odors were obtained by placing monosilica beads atop the babies heads for 20 minutes. Odors were obtained from the amniotic fluid by suspending the same type of beads over the fluid.
Of the 37 volatile odor components that were labelled by the researchers, they found aldehydes, carbonic oxides and hydrocarbons. By analyzing the amount and patterns of these components, it was found that they are much more distinct on the newborns heads than in the amniotic fluid. The study also showed that the odors are much more distinct right after birth as compared to a few days later.
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To further the study, researchers asked Kobe University students to try and distinguish between similar fabricated samples. They found that participants were able to recognize head samples easier than amniotic fluid samples and that it was easier for females to distinguish between the samples than it was for males.
These results have made big advancements in the area of mother-baby attachment and may be the basis for further studies in helping to understand the effects of attachment on relationships early on and later in life.