Newborns nurse long-term memories of smells

Within a week after birth, babies inhale new memories at their mothers’ breasts. Newborns who whiff a specific odor while breast-feeding, even if they smell it for only eight days, prefer that same odor over others a year or more later, reports a team led by physiologist Benoist Schaal of the European Center of Taste Sciences in Dijon, France.

Like other infant mammals such as rats and pigs, human newborns easily learn and remember smells associated with breast-feeding, the scientists conclude in a paper scheduled to appear in Developmental Science. These types of odor memories form most robustly during the first week after birth, the researchers propose.