That Mommy Smell: Just As Intoxicating As Baby Love

My God, when Mari was born, I was mesmerized by her scent. I mean, I’d find myself just burying my nose in her neck and her belly and her shiny little toes and inhaling and thinking that she was absolutely delicious. I don’t know if it was the baby powder or the baby lotion or the baby soap or the Dreft or just the baby or a combination of all of them together, but it was an elixir–an addictive, yummy elixir that would send me swooning.

Mari and I were talking about this the other day, while I was whipping up dinner. She looked up lazily from her homework and started grilling me about my favorite colors and songs and sounds and smells, and I got totally stuck on describing that baby smell of hers, and then dutifully shined the light back on her:

Me: So, what’s your favorite smell?

Mari: Well, I like the way sunscreen smells–it reminds me of the beach. And I love the beach.

Me: I know that’s the truth.

Mari: And I like the smell of the Christmas tree early in the morning, especially when we’re ripping open presents.

Me: Mmm… I love that smell, too.

Mari: Ooh, and cinnamon cookies in the over–that smell makes my mouth water.

Me: Oh yeah!

Mari: And I really love the smell of laundry detergent, especially Tide. It makes me chew my tongue.

Me: Weird. You were digging laundry detergent even when you were in my belly. I used to want to eat Tide. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Mari: I love the way you smell, too. You have that mommy smell—it’s there whenever I hug you. It makes me want to hug you more.

Now, who knew? I mean, I wear a special lotion from Bath & Body Works that keeps the proactive ash at bay, but also happens to smell pretty nice, and Nick really likes it because it’s a fresh, clean, earthy scent. But I didn’t realize it made Mari a little loopy, too. Imagine that: My baby girl-turned-big girl, whose baby smell has been soundly replaced by deodorant and Renuzit Sports spray (to keep the funk of 1,000 soccer games at bay), thinks I smell delicious, too.

I’ve arrived, you know. I remember thinking the same thing about my mom, too. She used to use this special lotion by Fashion Fair that she could only purchase at the cosmetics counter at Macy’s, and no one in the house was allowed to use it but her. It was expensive, see—like, $15 a bottle, which was a big deal for her working class budget—so the only one who could smell like that Fashion Fair lotion was the person willing to splurge fifteen ducats to wear it.

I suppose that’s what made it special.

And when my mom passed away, her scent seemed to fill every crevice of the home she and my Dad shared; it was on the blankets and in her closets and on her scarves and church hats and purses. Her jewelry, even.

Believe it or not, almost 10 years after she went on to fly with the angels, the box in which I keep her jewelry still smells like that lotion—like my mom. I try not to open it too much, for fear that her scent will wear off. But on special occasions—Mother’s Day, mommy’s birthday, the anniversary of her death, the rare occasions when she visits me in my dreams—I’ll open up that box and breathe in deep and remember my mommy’s Mommy Smell.

How amazing, then, to find out I have one of my own—a signature scent that reminds my daughter of me.

My embrace.

My love.

How delicious.


1. I’ll Always Love My Mama
2. A Mother’s Love: A Love Letter To The Woman Who Gave Me Away 
3. My Super Weird Pregnancy Craving

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Delicious, indeed!

    It’s so beautiful the way our babies can remind us of what’s REALLY IMPORTANT in this journey. Money, success, recognition… all wonderful–but let your first-born tell you that the scent of you is on their list of faves, and THAT right there is the stuff from which bliss is designed. Glad you shared!

  2. Perfection.

  3. my mom has a mommy smell.It gets so srong when she leaves the house and sometimes i get in her bed and inhale.

  4. This is an amazing post! It’s true we all have a scent. It’s so beautiful that your mom’s belongings can bring back memories. They actually say memories are brought on the most by scent and music.

  5. It’s very mum and baby or sometime dad develope a bound centred around the scent emitted. However it can also course resentment if it was not a loving relationship and instead the brain will send bad signals every time the smell is recognised.

  6. I agree with everyone that says this is a great post, because it is! I have had the urge to eat my kids up…just nibble them to my heart’s content. After reading this I asked my son what he though about all this and without a second’s hesitation he said, “Mom, you smell like apples, and peaches, and pears! Delicious!” Thank you my seven year-old angel 🙂

  7. Mmm that baby smell. I don’t know why but it IS intoxicating. I swear I could smell my daughter all day.

    As for that mommy smell, I know my mom just by her scent. I never knew if it was perfume or just her, but my mom couldn’t keep a pillow long enough. We used to take them and just enjoy her scent.

    It’s funny how you don’t know you have a special scent until its pointed out to you.

  8. Hej from Sweden,

    I am a Black city girl turned country gal living in the Swedish countryside. My adult daughter always says, ” that’s a mommy smell” ! I hear it often and I really love to hear that. She was still in NY and could smell her mommy in what ever I left in her apartment. Smells like you, mommy!
    I really love your blog!!
    Welcome to my blog:

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