The bond between a mother and her babies is a unique one, and it’s helped along by scent
Scent is vital for animals born with closed eyes or poor eyesight, as it allows them to identify and find their mothers. A newborn mouse learns the unique smell of its mother from the scent of the amniotic fluid at birth. After this, the smell helps the baby find its way to its mother’s side and encourages suckling.
Rabbits don’t have to put in the effort to learn what their mums smell like; females emit a pheromone that triggers an innate latching and suckling response in their kittens.
In species where all babies look virtually identical at birth, mothers benefit from the uniqueness of scent too, using chemical signals to identify their offspring so they don’t waste time or energy caring for another female’s young. In many mammals, including humans, certain hormones that promote bonding are released in a mother’s brain when she catches a whiff of her babies.