If you’re hanging with a crowd of moms (a gaggle?), you’ve definitely heard someone say something to the effect of, “I want to EAT your baby.” I know I’ve said it. Pink even called her daughter, Willow, “delicious” in a recent interview. So why is it that we have these tendencies towards wanting to eat our infants? It’s science, yo!
According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, the answer lies in our noses – specifically, our sense of smell. A paper recently published in the Frontiers of Psychology journal describes research that was done in Germany on the brains with two groups of 15 women. One group was composed of women who had given birth in the past six weeks while the other was comprised of women who had never given birth. The scientists then collected the smells from the pajamas of two-day old infants (btw, can we bottle this scent?).
The smells were shown to activate the reward circuits in the women’s brains, and the group who had given birth had even more brain activity.
University of Montreal researcher and study co-author Johannes Frasnelli noted that this particular circuit in the brain is the same one that causes addiction to certain foods, tobacco, and other drugs.
“Not all odors trigger this reaction. Only those associated with reward, such as food or satisfying a desire, cause this activation,” Frasnelli said in a press release.
Thankfully, the article points out that this impulse in humans is fleeting, so, unlike some other species, we don’t actually follow through on eating our young (maybe just an ear nibble).
The researchers note that it’s unknown whether the response was a result of biological changes in the brain due to childbirth or, rather, simply having sniffed their own babies.
Men were not part of the study, so it’s also unknown whether their brains are activated in the same way as a reaction to (admittedly yummy smelling) baby PJs.