Why should you sleep with your baby’s crib sheet before making their bed? The curious link between smell and comfort


The secret to making your baby’s crib their ultimate safe haven might just be right under your nose—literally.

Did you know your baby can recognize and find solace in your scent, even when you’re not around? That’s right! There’s an extraordinary connection between your smell and your baby’s happiness. It’s more important in the first few months of your baby’s life because they recognize you through your scent way before they start recognizing your face.

So, let’s unravel this mystery and discover why you should consider sleeping with your baby’s crib sheet before making their bed.

When do babies develop the sense of smell?

Believe it or not, the olfactory adventure begins quite early in utero.

Babies have a surprisingly well-developed sense of smell, and it begins to function as early as the second trimester. By the time a baby reaches 28 weeks in the womb, their olfactory system is already detecting and processing scents. So, even before they enter the world, they’re already getting a whiff of what’s to come!

Can babies smell inside the womb?

A baby sleeping in the womb

Yes, they absolutely can!

The womb, though a somewhat mysterious place, is not odorless. 

Amniotic fluid can carry various scents from the mother’s diet and environment. Babies can inhale and swallow small amounts of amniotic fluid, and this exposure to different odors may play a role in their early olfactory development. 

This means that your baby is essentially marinating in a fragrant stew of your unique scent.

They are introduced to your aroma as they swallow and breathe in this amniotic fluid, gradually forming an association between your scent and comfort.

Also, newborn babies rely heavily on their sense of smell to bond with their mothers and locate their source of nourishment (breastfeeding). As they grow and develop, their sense of smell becomes more acute and plays a significant role in their interaction with the world around them. 

But if you’re not breastfeeding, don’t worry! Babies can also recognize the scent of non-breastfeeding caregivers who regularly provide food and comfort. 

How is your baby’s sense of smell tied to their memory

A baby’s sense of smell is intimately tied to their memory, forming a crucial part of their early cognitive development.

When babies take their first breath, they’re not just inhaling air; they’re inhaling a world of scents and sensations that will leave a lasting imprint on their memory bank. The smell of their mother’s skin, the comforting scent of their nursery, and the aroma of familiar foods all become part of their early experiences.

Babies exhibit a remarkable ability to detect and remember various scents from the moment they are born. This connection between smell and memory begins in the womb, as babies can perceive and become familiar with their mother’s scent even before birth.

A 2007 study published in Acta PæDiatrica, found that when newborn babies have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers right after birth for more than 50 minutes, they can recognize the smell of their mother’s milk better. This recognition helps them breastfeed for a longer time.

As they continue to grow, babies use their sense of smell to recognize and bond with their caregivers, associating comforting scents with feelings of security and love. These olfactory memories are deeply ingrained and can have a long-lasting impact on a child’s emotional well-being.

The scent of a parent, a familiar blanket, or a beloved stuffed animal can provide a sense of comfort and reassurance throughout childhood and beyond, illustrating the profound role that a baby’s sense of smell plays in shaping their early memories and emotional connections.

The relationship between the mother’s smell and the baby’s comfort

Mother nursing her baby

Many scientific studies and research point to the special relationship and connection between the mother’s scent and how it comforts their baby.

In a 2020 study published by The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, scientists stated that “Familiar odors, such as those of the mother, regulate the child’s emotions.”

In another study conducted by Biology of the Neonate, researchers presented scents of different mothers to crying, sleeping, or awake newborns for one minute. 

The scents were:

  • The baby’s own mother’s (using a hospital gown worn by the baby’s mother)
  • Other mothers (using a hospital gown of another newborn baby’s mother)
  • A clean gown (using a clean hospital gown)

The results of this experiment indicated that crying babies stopped crying when either their own mother’s odor or another mother’s odor was presented to them.

Awake babies responded specifically to their own mother’s odor by increasing mouthing (moving their mouth, indicating they were hungry.)

The T-shirt study: How mom’s scent can comfort baby even when mom’s not around

In another 2021 study published in Science Advances, Ruth Feldman and her colleagues wanted to understand how mothers and babies communicate with each other through their brains and chemical signals. They gave 62 moms a T-shirt to sleep with for two nights and then return to the research center.

At the center, electrodes were placed on the heads of both mothers and infants to monitor their brain activity. 

  • The mothers and infants sat together, first with their backs to each other and then facing each other. When they faced each other, the data showed that their brain activity was more in sync, meaning their brains worked similarly.
  • Then, they did a test in which 51 babies sat face-to-face with a stranger. When a clean T-shirt was nearby, their brain activity was less in sync during the interaction. But when a T-shirt with their mom’s scent was nearby, their brains synced up with the stranger just like they did when their moms were present!

This research focused on babies around seven months old, when most babies start engaging in face-to-face social interactions.

This study indicates that if a baby has an item with their mom’s scent, it might help them feel more connected and comfortable with others when their mom can’t be there.

6 reasons why you should sleep with your baby’s crib sheet before making their bed

Here are some of the reasons why you should sleep with your baby’s crib sheet and how it can help them feel safe and closer to you:

  • Extended comfort: We all know that moms can’t be everywhere at once. But here’s the kicker: a simple crib sheet, T-shirt or a blanky can help bridge the gap. Research has shown that items infused with mom’s scent can make babies feel more connected and comfortable with others when mom can’t be there. So, even when you’re not physically present, your scent can offer solace.

    However, since a newborn can’t have a T-shirt or blanky in the crib, the only fabric you can douse with your scent is the crib sheet.
  • Familiarity and comfort: Your scent is a source of familiarity and comfort for your baby.  Sleeping with your baby’s crib sheet is like giving them a warm, cozy hug before they even lay eyes on it.

    Your scent is a source of comfort, and bonding with your baby begins long before they arrive in this world. They’ve been getting to know your unique smell since their time in the womb, and continuing this connection helps them feel secure.
  • Early olfactory development: Babies start developing their sense of smell as early as the second trimester in the womb. By sleeping with the crib sheet, you transfer your scent to it, providing a connection between your baby’s prenatal and postnatal experiences. This continuity can help ease the transition from the womb to the outside world.
  • Bonding and attachment: Newborns rely heavily on their sense of smell to bond with their mothers. Your scent on the crib sheet can reinforce the bond between you and your baby, making them feel secure and loved. This emotional connection is vital for healthy attachment and development.
  • Emotional regulation: Scientific studies have shown that familiar odors, such as a mother’s scent, can regulate a child’s emotions. Your scent on the crib sheet can have a calming effect on your baby, helping them manage their emotions and reduce fussiness or crying.
  • Emotional well-being: Your baby’s sense of smell profoundly affects their emotional well-being. It helps them recognize and bond with caregivers, associating comforting scents with love and security. So, when you sleep with their crib sheet, you’re essentially weaving a tapestry of emotional support that they can carry with them throughout childhood and beyond.

Tip: If you’re using the Cradlewise smart crib for your baby, you can slip the crib sheet over your pillow like an extra pillow case, place it inside your pajama top, or literally just tuck it under the covers with you.

Incorporating your scent into your baby’s crib sheet is a simple yet powerful way to strengthen the parent-child bond, promote emotional well-being, and create a safe haven for your little one to thrive.

Remember that your scent is a source of warmth and familiarity for your baby. It’s a lifeline that bridges the gap between the womb and the outside world, a constant reminder of your love and presence.

So, consider sleeping with your baby’s crib sheet before making their bed to provide them with the comforting embrace of your scent throughout their early years.

More posts you might like:


  1. Newborn scent. ARC Journal of Nursing and Healthcare. 2018. “Scent on the Newborn and Pain Effects.”
  2. Skin-to-skin after delivery. Acta PæDiatrica. 2007. “Mother-infant skin-to-skin contact after delivery results in early recognition of own mother’s milk odour.
  3. Sense of smell at birth. National Library of Medicine. 2020. “Olfaction scaffolds the developing human from neonate to adolescent and beyond.
  4. Maternal Odor in Newborns. National Library of Medicine. 2007. “Clinical Usefulness of Maternal Odor in Newborns: Soothing and Feeding Preparatory Responses.
  5. How mothers and babies communicate. Science Advances. 2021. “Maternal chemosignals enhance infant-adult brain-to-brain synchrony.”

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