From hearing their voice from inside the womb for months, to feeling their strong hands holding them in the first few minutes after birth, a baby’s early connection with their father creates a priceless relationship that will stay with them throughout their entire life. As your baby grows, they’ll be able to easily recognize dad’s face through sight, and their voice through hearing, but do babies know their father’s scent?
Dr. Trung Tristan Truong, a pediatrician with Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, explains how babies are able to pick up their dad’s scent during the crucial first few days of life. It is pretty common knowledge that skin-to-skin contact is important for breastfeeding moms, but Dr. Truong tells Romper that this type of connection also impacts a baby’s ability to know their father’s scent. “A baby who spends a lot of time with a particular caregiver (including fathers) should be able to pick up that caregiver’s scent over time,” Dr. Truong says. “The key is consistent skin-to-skin contact.”
In addition to skin-to-skin contact, other types of bonding activities also boost a baby’s ability to learn their dad’s scent and create a strong father-child bond. Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician practicing in Kansas City, tells Romper that babies can recognize their dad’s scent by the third day of life and will be able to tell the difference between different caregivers based on scent, especially if dads participate in hands-on bonding activities and caregiving.
If dad is given ample opportunities to help with taking care of their baby, they will be able to quickly establish a connection to their dad’s scent as dad interacts with their baby. “Having the father feed (if feeding from the bottle), change, rock, talk, snuggle, and/or bathe the baby should help in fostering the father-baby bond quickly,” Dr. Truong tells Romper.
Although babies may not be able to recognize their father’s scent right out of the womb, they may be able to recognize their dad’s voice, according to Dr. Truong. “Babies are suspected to be able to detect voices while in-utero (in the womb) around 32 weeks gestation (7 months gestation), so it’s quite possible that they not only are able to detect mom’s voice but dad’s voice as well, as long as the baby is exposed to the father’s voice consistently while in the womb.” So, having dad talk to their baby in the womb may jumpstart their connection and allow for an easier time bonding.