Baby’s Got Whiff? Dip It In Perfume!

Spanish babies are a malodorous breed. To disguise their offspring’s offensive stench, Iberian mamas have a powerful weapon at their disposal: Half-litre bottles of “Baby Cologne”. You want proof? Here are some pics I took this very morning in my local supermarket:

lala

Lalal

“Low in alcohol”

Now, I must confess, I know nothing whatsoever about miniature humans or the fancy potions that are meant to maintain their olfactory acceptability. It was my Spanish teacher who first drew my attention to this cultural difference in paediatric hygiene a few years ago, when she told me about her frustrations in trying to hunt down such a product in North London chemists after the birth of her first daughter, reaping nothing but raised eyebrows and contemptuous glares.

I can’t get my head around the concept either. Surely, most people dunk their whelps in a warm frothy bath at the end of the day in order to remove suspect residues, probably employing some sort of industrial cleaning product which is already lightly perfumed. Why would anyone expose their little princess’s pristine peachiness to any more chemicals than are absolutely necessary? And chemicals they do contain:

lalla

Contains one third less alcohol than other brands, apparently. And a healthy dose of Tirdeceth-9 Octane… WHAT?!  Oh, but look, it’s soap-free!

lala

The question at the top reads, loosely translated, “What does it do for my baby?”, and then goes on to explain that the product lends an “original smell and wellbeing”, and that it “stimulates [the baby’s] senses owing to its special fragrance and your cuddles, which it loves so much”. I guess nobody would want to risk making physical contact with an untreated beast… Theres’s also a series of warnings, including “avoid contact with eyes”, “do not ingest”, “keep out of the reach of children”, “do not use near naked flames or heat sources”.

I’ve already professed my abject ignorance on the subject, but I thought I’d check some figures before hitting the ‘publish’ button. Owing to my work, which I do on rare occasions to finance my cake habit, I have access to a vast database detailling the sales of consumer goods by country, including toiletries and cosmetics. From this, I gather that “Baby and Child-specific Fragrances” are chiefly sold in six countries: Brazil, Spain, Mexico, France, Russia and Italy. This does seem to be a bit of a Latin thing…

Spain is the world’s second largest market (after Brazil), generating retail value sales of US$55.3 million in 2014, and Nenuco and Johnson’s (see my photos) are indeed the leading brands here in Spain. In annual per capita terms, Spanish consumers spent US$9.60 on its defenceless victims aged 0-11 years of age,  while Brazilian parents dowsed millions of tiny botties with US$11.50 worth of the stuff in 2014. Sales in the other countries I mentioned were rather minimal by comparison, hovering around the 1 dollar mark per child.*

So, people, do tell me, are babies sanitised in this way in your country…? Or do they prefer them au naturel?

 

[*For data source, click here]

 

 

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108 thoughts on “Baby’s Got Whiff? Dip It In Perfume!

    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Sales are pretty low… we’re talking RUB163.7 million last year in Russia, which is miniscule. Leading brands are Princessa, Malenkaya Feya and Avon.

      I’ve googled a wee bit, and saw that these products do exist in the US – they are mostly alcohol-free. I’m wondering whether these are mainly on the shelves owing to demand from the Hispanic consumer base.

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      1. Jenna

        Ok, fair enough – winter is different. But come on! You’d think that a little munchkin with all those fat rolls to get sweaty would feel better, not just smell better!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Sonia told me that many Spanish people firmly associate the smell of Nenuco with babies. They grew up with it, and they want their babies to smell like that. Seems to be deeply ingrained. Northern Europeans, on the other hand, take this practice to be a mild form of child abuse 😉

      Liked by 3 people

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  1. June

    I’m struggling with this one. I remember Nenuco from Spanish holidays but I never realised it was for kids. We use very few chemical products, either on our bodies or round the house. We use natural deo (never antiperspirant) and I make our shower gel and liquid handsoap with natual ingredients. I also make my own scrubs and body butters, even my own bug deterrent. I realise most sane people have neither the time nor the inclination to do all this but I still think deliberately coating your baby in this shite should be a punishable offence.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      LOL! This confirms what I was thinking… it’s such a small thing and yet such a deep cultural divide! I had pretty mucy the same reaction when my teacher first told me about this, and I do use stuff like antiperspirants etc.

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      1. June

        The base is half vodka and half water. For a 100ml spritz bottle I add 10 drops each of lemongrass and citronella. That mix works (for me) for most biters – I rarely get a bite when I have it on. Works particularly well for mozzies. I’ve just started adding 5 drops each of tea tree and grapefruit as a tick repellent as I’ve been spending a lot of time in forests picking mushrooms. Can’t vouch for its effectiveness against ticks as yet.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Everyday Asia

    Seriously?? Guess these lil tykes don’t contend with crazy perfume allergies and what not! And douse their olfactory senses young. Definitely not common amongst the circles I grew up with in Canada – baby bath and a little baby powder always seemed to do the trick! 😉

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I just had this comment on fb from a friend in the US: “We actually had an issue with this in one of our Early Head Start centers (serving children 0-3 years old.) A Mexican family was sending their child in heavily perfumed, and one of the staff members has an allergy to perfumes, so the teacher was trying to talk to the mother about not dousing the child in cologne before sending him to the center for the day.”

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      1. Everyday Asia

        That would be my sister’s issue. She’s had to regretfully decline clients at her vet clinic as they cannot be parted from being drenched in perfumes. Even after being informed it will make their vet light headed, can’t breath and keels over!?

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  3. Sue

    Well, I have no first hand experience of bringing up little people, but I’ve never come across any of my friends using stuff like this on their little darlings..a bit excessive I would have thought…

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  4. heatherinde

    Baby cologne? Well know we’ve seen everything. Apparently I’m also very ignorant on the needs of carpet crawlers, but I totally thought a bath at the end of the day was sufficient. But given some of the stuff I’ve read over at the STFU Parents blog (which is chock-full of hilarity and disgusting things)… I can understand the need for industrial-strength chemicals. *shudders*

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      LOL! I tend to avoid mummyblogs, so I haven’t a clue, really, but everything to do with consumer behaviour/preferences etc, when compared between countries, fascinates me.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I can’t really say… I don’t have a lot of contact with babies. As for adults’ fragrance use, I personally don’t notice much of a difference between different countries.

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  5. Trippmadam

    I do not have children, but as far as I remember my mother bathed my younger siblings every day, but never sprayed them with perfume. As far as I know, my friends who have children, don’t, either. (Germany)

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      That’s what I thought, thanks for confirming. It certainly wasn’t done when I was young, but I’ve lost touch since with how German consumer habits have evolved in the toiletries realm.

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    2. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Oh, and I just received this response on fb from a Spanish friend: “I’ve just asked my mom and a friend of hers about it, and both of them have told me that they did that because it’s always been like this, so that babies smell good, and apparently at hospitals, just after a baby has been born, it is cleaned and perfumed with either Nenuco or Johnson right before give it to its mother

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  6. TheLastWord

    que aporta a mi bebe – now that’s a song title for ya! I’m already snapping my fingers and nodding my head.

    I brought up 2 babies ( well, ok, my part consisted of looking concerned and offering much ignored advice as the party of the second part did her thing), but we never used anything other than bay soap, water and baby powder.

    “princess’s pristine peachiness” I sued to hate alliterations once upon a time, but I love them now.

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  7. BerLinda

    Isn’t the baby smell supposed to be wonderful? Everyone’s always going on about it – “ooh, sniff her head – magical” and that sort of bollox. But maybe they’re just inhaling the chemicals 🙂 Funny that you should keep it out of reach of children but it’s perfectly acceptable to douse them in it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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  8. Kim in Fiji

    I can speak for Pacific Islands on this: coconut oil! You wash them up and slather them with coconut oil. Makes them taste – I mean SMELL – edible. ( for you, Lady, think “macaroons”) Yum. AND keeps ’em soft. So I suspect that a second big draw on the baby crap pictured above is also the oiliness of the concoctions.

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      1. Kim in Fiji

        Oiled up infants ARE slippery! Juggling them is a real skill. And as for Nutella – that is just asking for trouble. In the Mariana Islands they have a belief that if you have an urge to bite a baby and you DON’T bite him, then he will have Bad Luck. Unfortunately my first child’s name was the Chamorro word for “bite” (Akka) …. the poor baby got so many bites from adults. Bruising bites! I’d never deliberately set a baby up for THAT.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        LOLOL! In Spain, you don’t say that a baby is cute, but that it is “delicious” (esta rico/a). But no need to sink one’s teeth into them, although squeezing their cheeks seems to be mandatory.

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  9. Giovannoni Claudine

    That’s creepy… I do prefer kid “au naturel”… of course!
    They have to experiment rolling on the earth, eating sand and from the cat or dog bowl… they have to get anticorps since they go on all fours…
    Sometime I used “borotalco” especially in summer when was very hot…
    But now my babies are 16 and 13 😉 and they like to use a little bit of perfume
    Have a lovely day :-)c

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  10. LadyButterfly

    I’m not surprised but we don’t use Cologne for our babies right here even if Spain is not far ^^.
    “au naturel, c’est très bien”.
    Never put so perfume on my kid (who is 14 by now) – sometimes coco oil for her hair

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  11. The Sicilian Housewife

    Yes, here in Sicily some people perfume their malodorous babies. I wonder if they think they can get up to a whiff level strong enough to drown out the stench of fresh poo?

    Though what they prefer doing is dressing them up in enough clothing for a trip to the north pole when it’s abotu 24 degrees C outside and then refusing to remove any clothing because they ahve sweated and exposing their naked skin woudl lead to them getting “hit my the air” and then developing a non-viral form of flu. Really,. Not kidding.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Oh they do, do they?! I’m thrilled to find that out!!! In Spain, they dress their babies and toddlers in very pretty outfits. Germans wrap them up too much, and the Brits send their kids out into the elements with sleet whipping against their bare little blue legs. As long as they’ve got a coat on, they’ll be alright…! That might warrant a blog post… 🙂

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      1. The Sicilian Housewife

        Once when I went back to England I saw a woman carrying a baby with bare feet in a hail storm, just as you described. I’m afraid my inner Sicilian came out and I admonished her. I may have saved that lucky baby from infantile chilbains as she tucked it into her cardigan!

        Liked by 3 people

      1. The Sicilian Housewife

        This reminds me of the story of my Brazilian brother-in-law whose mother washed his hair once a month with Baygon, that highly toxic stuff you’re supposed to sprinkle on the floor to kill ants and cockroaches, to make sure they were no hidden lice or nits lurking about. Apaprently a whole generation of brazilians got their hair washed like this. It’s amazing they stayed alive!!! Apparently Brazilian mothers make Sicilian ones look downright disinterested in cleaning…

        Liked by 2 people

  12. linnetmoss

    Seems like a residue of the premodern attitude that babies and children are miniature adults (to say nothing of the premodern attitude that bathing is unnecessary if not downright harmful). Grownups use cologne to cover up their bodily odors, so why not do the same to babies? It makes me cringe in the same way as the people who give toddlers pierced ears.

    Liked by 1 person

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      1. linnetmoss

        Nope. I am pleased to say that I rarely tortured myself with that heinous show after they had the “paleontologist” Ross refer to our species in the singular as “homo sapien.”

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      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        It’s just a cultural difference… I guess the rationale goes something like this: All girls will want to wear earrings, and it’s kinder to do it early on so they won’t remember the pain.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. linnetmoss

        LOL. I don’t think “remembering the pain” is the traumatic part. But I’ve seen plenty of toddlers here with pierced ears. What about circumcision? Here it is still commonplace to circumcise baby boys (regardless of religion) for reasons of “hygiene” which are really cultural.

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  13. Kim G

    So are there Chanel and Dior products for rich babies? You know, the silver-spoon set?

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where the most horrifying part of this is from the comment where they apparently do this to newborns. Ack!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  14. expatlingo

    It appears there would be a strong a correlation between countries that pierce the ears of babies and douse them in baby cologne. (This is the first time I’ve heard of this idea! All those years I could have been masking the scent of my children.)

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  15. Carol

    I live on Chile, and baby cologne is pretty common,it is mostly used on children anyway.
    Teenagers use it too, i think it is kind of a tradition. But no, we are not crazy. Those products have chemicals that can cause alergic reaction to some babies- or adults, thats true , but is pretty unusual, and we use the product with common sense; you wont use that cologne on a new born baby, or put it on irritated skin, just a little on the baby clothes!

    Liked by 1 person

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