20 Unmistakable Smells of Motherhood

From Sweet Newborns’ Heads to Toxic Tween B.O.—This is What Motherhood Smells Like

It’s said that the olfactory sense is the one most closely associated with memory recall. Even seventeen years into parenthood, I can still remember each of these smells distinctly. All I have to do is look at a photo of one of my kids as a baby or toddler, and these scents come wafting back.

Some of them, I wish I could smell every day. Some of them, well, not so much.


1. Newborn Baby Head

The best, most solid proof that there’s a heaven.

2. Clean Diapers 

Mmmmm…that fresh combination of optimism and denial.

3. Baby’s Breath 

Actual breath of a baby, not the plant—but you see why the plant got its name. SO SWEET.

4. Spit-up “Cheese” in Baby Neck Creases

Or, in the case of our babies, Chunky Thigh Rolls. NOT SO SWEET.

5. Exclusively Breastfed Baby Poop

Why do I suddenly crave buttered popcorn?

6. The First Post-Solid-Food Poop

Making you wonder why you ever decided to start feeding them solid food.

7. Toddler Poop after a Blueberry Binge

Yes, I know. Poop three times in a row. Welcome to motherhood. But seriously, how does it still smell like blueberries coming out??

8. The Wet Diaper You Forgot Was in the Diaper Bag

ACK. GAH. For the love of all that is holy, do I have any nose hairs left?

9. Pumped Breastmilk that’s Gone Bad

WAAAAAAHHHHHHH! Smells like wasted time and energy.

10. Soggy Cheerios

Surprising, perhaps, but you can smell them right now, can’t you?

11. Milk + Carseat + Hot Summer Day

No dairy in the car—don’t learn this rule the hard way.

12. Your Kid’s First Bad Breath Morning

The antithesis of baby’s breath. Saddest. Day. Ever.

13. Sweaty Kid Head

The antithesis of Newborn Head Smell, and reason enough to postpone sports as long as possible.

14. Ripe Kid Butt

I assume this doesn’t need clarification.

15. The First Time You Pick Up a Kid’s Undies off the Floor and Smell Them to See if They’re Clean—and They’re Not 

See #14.

16. The Pediatrician’s Office

Well-child visits for three kids, plus sick visits? I know that sterile smell like the back of my hand.

17. Wet Snowboots

I suppose this is only for us northern parents. Sweaty, wet snowboots—especially if they’ve been handed down from one kid to another. Kinda like a wet dog, but smells like kids and winter nonetheless.

18. Tween B.O.

If you’re not there yet, oooooh it’s coming. And it’ll slap you square in the face when it arrives.

19. Freshly Bathed Child, Any Age

Ahhhh. All is right with the world again. Why can’t they just stay this way forever?

20. The Smell of Snuggles

Each kid has their own delicious scent when they’re clean and curled up in your lap, don’t they? Even when they have their sweaty heads and grody B.O., it still smells like motherhood.

What smells did I miss?

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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