This post is in partnership with Dreft. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible.
Those of you who have been following along for a while likely remember late in the summer of 2016, when our family went through what remains the most difficult time of our lives. For those who do not, our son Emmett, who was a 7 month old baby at the time, had started doing an occasional subtle movement (imagine a little shrug and slight head bob that looked a lot like reflux) that just seemed a little “off” to me. After a few days of this, we took him to his pediatrician who, while not overly concerned, referred us to a neurologist, just in case. Long story short, less than 24 hours later we were in the children’s hospital with a diagnosis of Infantile Spasms, a form of childhood epilepsy that is labeled as “catastrophic” and comes with a very poor prognosis for the vast majority of children who have it. There is, of course, much more to the story. But miraculously, after a week in the hospital followed by several months of intense medication and therapy, Emmett was one of the few (5-10%) who not only beat IS, but has been assessed as completely healthy and developmentally on track. You can see by the photos in this post that he is now a happy, healthy, active, fun, funny toddler, who makes my heart swell beyond words. And for this, I am filled with gratitude.
I’ve gone into more detail of Emmett’s journey with IS here on the blog, especially in the months after his initial diagnosis (if you search for “Emmett” you can find many posts about it), but today I wanted to share something I haven’t gotten into yet; and that’s the emotional experience of our time in the hospital, mainly how the power of scent (yes, scent) – specifically the scent of Dreft baby detergent – helped us cope during that heartbreaking time. Before I get more into details, I want to be completely transparent and say that while this post is in partnership with Dreft, everything I’m about to share is legitimately what happened – and Dreft just happened to play a part in it. One of the things my husband and I most remember about Emmett being separated from us in the hospital for countless MRIs, EEGs, blood tests, lumbar punctures, etc. was how the smell of his clothing and blankets – which were always washed in Dreft – brought us comfort. (In fact, after working on this campaign, we started using Dreft to wash the kids’ clothes again – specifically plant-based Dreft purtouch – because we remembered how powerful that scent was in terms of feeling comforted and bonded with Emmett. But more on that in a minute.)
After the neurologist sat us down to deliver the devastating results of Emmett’s EEG, we were instructed to go home and pack enough belongings to be in the hospital for a week. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and, as my husband describes it, going through the motions, almost as if we were watching ourselves on a movie. It was surreal. We frantically grabbed things and threw them in bags. I was mainly focused on Emmett, and packed his blankets, lovey pacifier, and other things I hoped would bring him comfort. Then we headed to the children’s hospital.
Within minutes of checking in and getting our room, a doctor and several nurses came in. We were asked countless questions and had to fill out pages of paperwork, and Emmett was sedated and whisked away for his MRI. That was one of the hardest parts of the entire experience. From the second the neurologist gave us the bad news in his office, I held Emmett. I even rode next to him in his car seat to the hospital. I was overcome with a biological urge to protect him, so having him taken from me (even for something that was in his best interest and meant to help him), was devastating. During his MRI (which took over an hour), a kind nurse encouraged us to go try to eat something. Sitting in the hospital cafeteria, force feeding myself crackers, I broke down in tears. Right in the middle of that crowded cafeteria, I ugly cried until I was gasping for air. I reached into my diaper bag for a tissue and instead grabbed one of Emmett’s muslin blankets. And as I raised it to my face, I smelled Emmett. Emmett’s clothes were always washed in Dreft, and the scent of that blanket instantly made me feel better, like he was close. I remember telling Robbie to smell it too. As silly as it sounds, that blanket brought me great comfort in that moment, and reminded me of the special bond I had with my babe, regardless of whether or not he was physically with me at that moment.
For the rest of our hospital stay, I made sure we had that blanket with us every time he was taken away. And while I mostly slept in the hospital chair holding and nursing him during the nights, when he napped in the crib and I napped on the hospital couch, I slept with it right next to me. I’m telling you guys, it was amazing how keeping that item close helped me (and my husband) feel bonded with and connected to Emmett during that time. While his comfort was obviously our number one priority, having those moments of comfort for ourselves as well genuinely helped us through one of the most difficult experiences of our lives. I’ve always known (from reading about it and from personal experience) that scent is incredibly powerful, but this was the ultimate proof. And here’s something crazy – the day we were released and took our sweet boy back home, he insisted on having the muslin blanket that I’d hijacked wrapped over him. He couldn’t talk, of course, but I imagined it was because he felt the same bond we did.
Now that I know more, when I think back to how powerful the scent of that blanket was, it all makes sense. In fact, a new survey discovered that Dreft‘s iconic scent actually helps parents feel more bonded and connected to their little ones. (Here are some stats… 8 out of 10 parents feel that using Dreft can make them feel more bonded with their baby. 94% of parents say that the scent of Dreft reminds them of baby. And when they are apart, 87% of parents agree that the Dreft scent helps them feel more connected and closer to their little one. We are proof of this!) We were always very careful with our kids as babies when it came to scents, and preferred unscented products – but because Dreft is hypoallergenic, it is so gentle on baby’s skin, and has such a sweet, subtle scent (one that has been specifically formulated to resemble the indescribable smell of babyhood), we purposefully chose it over unscented detergents. I actually got my first bottle of Dreft at my baby shower while pregnant with my first, and after it was recommended to me by so many friends and family (and I learned that it was the #1 dermatologist recommended detergent for baby clothes and the #1 pediatrician recommended baby detergent!), it was a no brainer to use it. The fact that Dreft has been created exclusively for babies to take care of their delicate clothes and fabrics for more than 80 years is pretty darn reassuring too. And I mean really – if a detergent can make us feel bonded, nostalgic, happy, tearful and grateful just by smelling a load of laundry, I am in.
As I mentioned earlier, since starting work on this campaign, we’ve been using Dreft again, specifically Dreft purtouch, which was introduced last year. It is a 65% plant-based baby detergent that is hypoallergenic and made with naturally-derived ingredients to be gentle on skin. It still has that special scent we love, and gently yet effectively cleanses (removing up to 99% of baby stains, which is mandatory with a toddler). It’s really nice to have it back around the house again, as we share new (and, thankfully, much less intense) bonding moments with our little ones.
To this day, both Emmett and I love that special blanket, by the way. I am constantly reminded (especially now that we wash it in Dreft again) of how it bonded us during the most challenging time. I’ll never throw it away.
Do you have any special scents that help you feel connected to your little ones? Who else is a Dreft fan?