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I suspect my three month old baby is agitated by the strong scents such as soap, moisturizer, fabric softener etc. It is ironic since so many people recommend a massage with moisturizer for a good night's sleep-- which only makes her nervous.

I am looking for references supporting this suspicion.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

From what I've read, a newborn's sense of smell is much stronger and more fine-tuned than that of adults. This Parents article confirms:

Within the first week of life, a newborn is capable of recognizing the scent of his own mother. One study showed that at 5 days old, babies could smell the difference between a breast pad that had been used by their mother and a new pad.

Your newborn may be overwhelmed by the scent of your massage oil or soap. However, babies in general aren't turned off by strong or artificial scents:

Other studies have observed babies reacting differently to a variety of smells; one study actually found infants exhibiting signs of pleasure when exposed to fruity scents, like a lemony after-shave lotion.

You already seem to recognize your baby's is agitated by certain smells. I suspect liking or disliking artificial scents is unique to each baby (and probably has to do with mom's use of perfume, or brand of shampoo, etc.).

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I actually do not have any references other than the nurses that taught our birthing class before we had our daughter. She strongly recommended that all soaps be as sent free and dye free as possible, especially as a newborn. She told us that it can irritate their delicate skin and some of the scents are overwhelming to them as well. We actually do not use any fabric softeners because I have heard from many people that it agitates their children. We were also told to never use moisturizer on an infant unless there is a skin condition that is being supervised by a pediatrician because babies have well moisturized skin. I know this is not a documented answer, but I hope it helps you.

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Many scents and lotions are made from petrolleum products and other chemicals which a lot of people are sensitive to. You can try massaging your child with a gentle natural oil such as extra virgin olive oil etc.or with nothing to see if it is the massage/touch that aggitates your child or products.

Some children are sensitive to certain types of touch. In this case a pediatric Occupational Therapist would be an excellent resource.

Using gentle, natural products in your house and putting baby's laundry through an extra rinse can help.

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As for soaps, the midwives in the birthing class I attended said that babies under a year don't really require soaps at all. Gently rinse with warm water, and use a dab of oil if necessary to clean the diaper area. We didn't start using any kind of soap until 1-1½ years of age, and just a small amount of baby soap in the bathtub.

As for laundry detergents, we used anti-allergic detergents to start with. We've since switched to regular without problems, but I've had itchy-skin problems caused by detergents far into my adulthood so you might want to continue with anti-allergic detergents longer if you're worried.

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