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Netflix’ Babies reviewed; Episode 1: Love

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Netflix’ Babies reviewed; Episode 1: Love

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I’m fascinated by the science of babies. I love seeing all the research. And despair often at how society often ignores it! But Netflix’ new series Babies grabbed my attention immediately. I am going to share my thoughts on this documentary and I would LOVE to hear yours!

Episode 1: Love

The scientists:

Professor Ruth Feldman – Professor of Developmental Social Neuroscience at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzlia

Ed Tronick – Director of Child Development Unit and Distinguished Professor at University of Massachusetts

Anne Rifkin-Graboi – Head, Infancy and Early Childhood Research at National Institute of Education, Singapore

The babies:

Willow, with her parents Rachel & Adam;

Dakota, with her parents Destiny & Shawn;

Eric, with his parents Josh & Isaac

The topic:

Love: bonding, parenting, attachment, behaviour, and brain development

Initial thoughts on Netflix’ Babies: episode 1

  • It’s amazing it took until 2001 to do more research on the role of oxytocin in bonding in humans
  • Oxytocin rises in mothers during pregnancy and then gets higher after birth when interacting with babies. It also rises in fathers when interacting with their babies
  • The brain scans showing the activation of the amygdala are fascinating – it explains the parents hyper vilgilance!
  • And it’s not biological – it switches on for non-biological parents too
  • I’m loving seeing so much breastfeeding as normal
  • Surrogacy is one hell of a gift to give someone
  • “Having Eric made our lives more stressful but it’s a good stress” kinda sums up being a parent
  • The still face experiment is horrible to watch, but has really fascinating results
  • Babies are social from birth. It’s part of their wiring to engage with their caregivers
  • Babies crying when you are driving is up there as one of the most stressful things ever!
  • Use of the ‘still face experiment’ can test a lot of psychological theories. This research presented shows that children who have a positive relationship with their parent show less cortisol (stress) from the experiment. Good relationships build resiliance
  • It’s hard to do brain scans on babies!
  • The research into parenting styles and the effect on brain development is fascinating – more attentive and responsive parents meant that baby was dealing with less stress and other parts of the brain were able to grow more.
  • It’s all about responsiveness!
Toddler/child dressed as a scientist in a lab coat and bow tie and glasses, with finger raised in a lecturing manner. Little scientists

Reflecting on the Netflix’ Babies

The first episode of Netflix’ Babies introduces us to the format the documentary will follow. Three scientists will discuss areas of research related to the topic of the episode (in episode 1 it’s love) and we will follow a couple of babies and their families as well.

It’s an interesting format, as it puts the emphasis on the science rather than the families. I’m not sure that it comes across as very accessible, however. I’ve seen a fair few people complaining about the lack of babies! For me, though it was great, and confirmed a lot of my CalmFamily training and the concepts we use in BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm.

Researching parents and babies: nobody wants to know

Oxytocin is a big part of bonding and isn’t solely related to a process triggered by pregnancy. Oxytocin increases in anyone who is interacting regularly with the baby no matter the biological relationship. It’s all about the touch and skin to skin.

It’s great that scientists are now pursuing this research more widely. My inner feminist wants to discuss why this research is only beginning now, as well. However, it’s sad that people are still telling researchers that no-one cares about research into women and babies or that there’s no money in it.

Research finding and medical advice: the mismatch

I found it really quite painful to hear parents report that health care professionals still give advice that contradicts all research findings. Destiny reports her paediatrician telling her to nurse less often so tiny Dakota doesn’t start ‘using’ her. Until we can repair the division between what science shows and the advice health care providers offer we do parents a massive disservice.

Netflix’s decision not to comment on this advice risks the audience of Babies believing that this advice is accurate and helpful. Actually, it is not based on the scientific evidence at all.

An interracial same sex couple lying on the bed gazing at their baby, who is held standing on them

Positive representation in Netflix’ Babies

Following the range of families is wonderful. Both Willow and Dakota had mother’s who returned to work early whose father’s played the primary caregiver role. Eric has two fathers, with Josh presented as fulfilling the primary caregiver role. I feel like that is powerful message to include during their first episode.

I found it incredibly positive as well to show so much breastfeeding during the program, especially presented without comment. Frequently documentaries obscure or hide breastfeeding, or present it as unusual, so this was a refreshing change.

Netflix’ Babies: the scientists and their specialisms

I read more into the research covered by this programme. For some of these scientists, the research, as discussed in this episode, is not their most recent work. They are pursuing all manner of cutting edge research into early childhood. Professor Feldman’s area of expertise is in longitudanal studies of the connections between biology and behaviour. Ed Tronick researches factors affecting infant and parental mental health. His ‘still face’ experiment continues to be a key tool for investigation in this area. Anne Rifkin-Graboi is the head of the Singapore National Institute of Education and is overseeing a range of publications from breastfeeding to language development and preschool behaviours. These are people who will shape the direction of research and care in the future – one suggesting a much more child led model than we have right now.

Have you watched Babies on Netflix? I would love to hear your thoughts on Episode 1! What did you find most interesting?

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Babies, Baby development, Nurture-science
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