That Baby Smell


I don’t want you to think I didn’t bond with my baby as you read this. Because I did. He has been attached to me since day one. I’m not entirely sure the umbilical cord was completely severed. But bringing home the second baby was so much different than bringing home the first.

I still vividly remember driving our firstborn home from the hospital. The car felt like it was going 90 miles an hour and crawling at the same time. My husband looked back at me, sitting next to our daughter’s car seat, and asked, “What do we do now?” My exhausted, overwhelmed voice cracked as I said, “I. . . I don’t know.” We had no idea what we were in for. We were bringing home a stranger and it was terrifying. This brand new little creature fully relied on us and no amount of reading and researching had prepared me for that feeling.

We survived on torture-inducing amounts of sleep and food prepared by anyone except me for the first couple of months. We learned about what our little baby girl liked and didn’t like, what made her laugh, and how long she’d cry before going to sleep (answer: forever). She morphed from a little potato that cried and pooped into a funny little baby that observed everything and snuggled with her mommy. The memory of how it felt to look at my baby and realize I knew nothing about her had faded. We’d snuggle and read her favorite book (because I knew that she had favorites now!) and I’d smell her bald baby head and instantly relax. From the time we gave her the first real bath with Aveeno baby wash, the smell of her fresh clean head provided an instant rush of endorphins.

I probably smelled her head way too often, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t remember it. I always felt like everything was okay after a good sniff n’ snuggle. (I really hope that’s not a euphemism for anything.)

Cue bringing home baby number two.

Birth of our second seemed a little easier. I felt physically normal a lot quicker than with our first. We took him home and felt like we could handle the newborn phase again. No big deal. We were just bringing home another stranger.

He’s been my boy since the beginning, but I had forgotten about that period of time where you stare at the perfect little face and realize that you know nothing about this person. I had a constant comparison to his sister. . . I knew every detail about her: her favorite foods, the way she fell asleep (one hand up my sleeve, if you were wondering), the sound of her laugh. Then I’d look at the baby and think about how little I knew about him. It was really strange.

We survived again on too little sleep and some foods prepared by other people, combined with fast food and whatever I could find the time to make (not nearly as many people bring you casseroles on the second baby). We were doing pretty well, in my opinion, at adjusting to two kiddos.

But, one thing was just off and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I knew I loved this little baby, but I just didn’t get the same feeling when I smelled his head. I know that sounds weird, but it was part of my nighttime routine with my daughter as a baby. I’d snuggle her in, and that smell would relax me. I would find myself nearly inhaling his head, just trying to get that rush of endorphins that I had gotten from sniffing his sister’s head a couple years before. I would smell and smell, and conclude that, yes, he did smell like my baby, but something was missing. It started to really upset me. Was I not bonding with this little boy? He’s my baby and I love him so much, but why doesn’t it feel the same when I sniff his head?

I was trying to be more proactive this time around to avoid any skin problems by using an all-natural baby wash from a local small shop. We finally ran out of the little bar of goat’s milk soap, so I reached for the trusty bottle of Aveeno (just until I bought more soap locally, I told myself). My husband and I finished up their baths and carried each kid to their respective rooms. I smoothed lotion on his skin, put him in some warm pajamas, and snuggled him in close.

I took a deep whiff of his head, and had a relaxing feeling drape over my entire body. My spirits were instantly lifted and I felt like everything was right in the world.

Then it hit me.

It was the baby wash! I had been using Aveeno with our firstborn, but switched to the goat’s milk soap with the baby. My brain had so heavily associated the Aveeno baby wash with the clean baby smell that it would not accept anything else as correct. Any worries that I had about not bonding as quickly as with his sister faded away. It took several weeks of not getting the right smell for me to luck in to the right one. The smell that made everything okay. After a particularly long day with the kids, I could bathe him in the “right” baby wash and feel like maybe we were all doing just fine.

From that night on, I have exclusively used the Aveeno wash on little guy. Okay, sometimes I use big sis’s shampoo on his head because he has more hair now, but when I need that fresh clean baby smell, he gets a squirt of the Aveeno on his head. I get one smell and it feels like he’s still a snuggly baby. Then his head gets sweaty and he smells like a boy, but that couple of minutes that he stays clean is wonderful.

And now, that little baby is a rough and tumble toddler. I know his favorite books, his favorite shows, and his favorite foods (cheese, cheetos, cheerios, chicken nuggets. . . pretty much anything starting with “ch”). I know how he’ll react to hearing the word “no” (spoiler alert, he acts like you just ate the last piece of cheese). I know what makes him laugh and I know what it looks like when he needs to sleep. I know what his great little hugs feel like and how it sounds when he says “Mom-ma!” He’s not a little stranger anymore!

I know this sounds like a big ad for Aveeno, but it’s not.

But if Aveeno wants to sponsor me, I will totally take them up on it.

What’s a powerful smell for you?




2 Replies to “That Baby Smell”

  1. Haha that’s totally funny. Growing up I always associated that Baby smell to Johnson and Johnson, so I totally get it lol And also proof that, as Moms, we can drive ourselves crazy worrying about something that’s not even an issue. lol

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