Several weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house while she was babysitting a newborn. This little one started to cry not long after her momma left. Try as she might, my friend couldn’t console that little baby. She wouldn’t take the bottle her mom had left either. Eventually, my friend turned to me and said, “Do you want to try?” So I took that little baby. Within moments, she was calm. Soon, I was able to get her to drink some of her bottle, and she fell asleep for a bit in my arms.
I don’t think my friend was doing anything “wrong,” and I don’t think I was doing anything “right.” But it was apparent that this little one could tell a difference between us. Knowing what I know now, I’d say she could smell and feel that difference. I’ve often heard and read that babies prefer the smell of lactating women to non-lactating women. I’m a lactating mother. I (or, more accurately, my boobs) smell good to babies. But I don’t think it was just the smell of my milk that calmed that little one.
Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg has been studying oxytocin longer than most. In her research, she discovered that injecting male rats with oxytocin would create a domino effect of sorts. The other rats in the cage could smell the increased oxytocin levels among their cage-mates and their own bodies responded by releasing more oxytocin. They also became more calm as a result. I’d say it is reasonable to assume that we, too, respond to the oxytocin levels of the people around us. (Via Hug the Monkey)