Netflix Babies Reviewed – Episode 2: First Food
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’s new series Babies grabbed my attention immediately. Over the next few weeks I am going to share my thoughts on the documentary and I would LOVE to hear yours!
Episode 2: First Food
The Scientists: Katherine Hinde – Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Senior Sustainability Scientist at Arizona State University; Michael Georgieff, M.D. – Professor and Executive Vice Chair – Department of Pediatrics, Director – Division of Neonatology, Director – Center for Neurobehavioral Development, University of Minnesota; Dr. Susan Lynch – Director – Colitis and Crohn’s Disease Microbiome Research Core, Associate Professor University of California San Francisco
The Babies: Hugo, with his parents Natasha & Adrien; Nelson, with his parents Morning-Star & Charlie; Mila & Lincoln, with their parents Victoria & Ryan
The Topic: Food – Breastfeeding, Milk, First Solids, Microbiome, Iron and Brain Development
- I want someone to one cook paella for me 😂
- Yes more nursing! And yes we don’t know much about breast milk and what it contains, again it’s only recently that scientists have been able to get funding and desire together to study this
- Loving the skin to skin for breastfeeding too and mum having lunch on hand. Man it was hard to eat one handed!
- Kate Hinde feels that the ubiquitous presence of cows milk has helped us forget how special breast milk is
- I’m shocked that there was more research into coffee over breast milk
- Studies milk in monkeys because they develop so much faster so she can see changes faster
- Babies feeding make the cutest noises ❤️
- Natasha sharing the thoughts of many mothers around breastfeeding- it’s sometimes just nice to carry on and not have some arbitrary cut off. 6 months seems very young when you get there
- Monkeys made milk differently for sons and daughters. Higher energy for sons, higher minerals to support bone development for daughters
- We know more about dairy cow milk than any other kind of milk (in fact all other milks put together)
- Studied 1.5M cows 😱 – the same differences in milk were noted in cows as in monkeys around sex of the child, and mothers of daughters made more milk – and we don’t know why!
- Having a daughter first increased lactation for subsequent pregnancies too – and the same trend has been noticed in humans as well
- More milk is produced with each additional pregnancy, so if you struggled breastfeeding the first time you are more likely to make more milk next time
- A note – bottle propping is not very safe because it increases the risk of aspiration of the milk. Again Netflix chose to not make a comment here
- Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing – it can be alongside formula. And families, especially those with circumstances outside the ‘norm’, need support and understanding to reach their breastfeeding goals
- Breast milk is individual to each nursing relationship, it changes composition throughout the day and the lifetime of the nursing relationship. It changes according to illness, new places, sleep changes and more. There are also a number of hormones influencing baby’s development, all individually tailored.
- This info is incredibly relevant. Formula isn’t there as a substitute but could be for those who need it, and mums aren’t supported to breastfeeding goals because sometimes it is assumed formula is ‘as good’ or the same.
- Baby’s growth isn’t solely about weight gain! It’s about weight, height, brain size and percentage growth not just the single number.
- The signs of readiness for weaning are still not very well known – watching you eat isn’t one of them, they need to be able to stay upright, have lost the tongue thrust reflex and are able to co-ordinate putting something in their hand into their mouth. If they have reached those signs they also don’t need purees, but can start on finger foods.
- Food is important, it’s social, it gives us energy, so families can be very excited to start.
- Metals are important for brain development, so iron deficiency is a concern. Iron is stockpiled in the womb – about 4 months worth of stores – but there are things which can block this happening such as some medications the mother takes
- Iron levels are related to memory development, so they tested memory in babies using an EEG measuring electrical activity in their brains
- They tested babies reactions to the sound of their mother’s voice and a stranger’s voice saying the same phrase. In babies with iron deficiency they were less able to differentiate between their mother’s voice and a stranger – a different memory response.
- Whilst it’s important to introduce foods with these important metals, is is also important to follow cues with babies and food, it should be fun experimenting
- Babies stick everything in their mouths 😂and this means microbes – which is good for the ecosystem in their gut
- Dr Lynch’s research showed that babies exposed to dogs and cats are protected from developing some immune diseases by studying the different microbes present in families with pets and without, and the medical development of babies in those families
- In homes with no pets there are less diversity of microbes and a higher chance of developing asthma in childhood. Dogs is the highest diversity and lowest chance of asthma
- They also looked at stool samples from 1 month old babies that they knew the future development of (allergies and illnesses) and identified the different bacteria
- They found three distinct gut microbiome compositions. Two were associated with a lower risk of disease and allergies. One was much higher (I really want more info on this as a family with several allergies!)
- Yay for carrying in Slings!
- In recent generations our change in living conditions has hugely changed our interaction with microbes
- We still don’t really know what makes a microbiome ‘healthy’. Lots of things affect it but we don’t know exactly how
- But, a sterile environment is not best! Diversity helps protect against disease
- Food is more than just calories. It’s part of who we are as humans. It affects more than we currently understand
Reflecting on the episode
I found this second episode really fascinating with it’s discussion on breast milk. It’s really sad that we don’t have the understanding of what breast milk does and is, and that plays into some of what I was saying about the previous episode – poor advice from health care professionals because this understanding of breastfeeding isn’t there. I am really happy the documentary is showcasing breast feeding so much.
Again like in the first episode it’s wonderful to see a range of different families – blended step families, inter racial, twins, bilingual. I hope that this trend continues.
Kate Hinde’s research into breastmilk is amazing – her research has really opened a lot of eyes into how much we don’t yet know. I loved her talking about challenging people’s views of it being something important to study, and being like ‘YES I can milk a monkey!’.
Food is another contentious issue. Again its an area where the science and the reality aren’t often very well matched. There is a long discussion amongst parents about what the signs of weaning are and when and how is best to introduce foods. The science here is evolving in a lot of different ways – what is the interplay between needing to keep iron and other mineral stores high vs the gut microbiome? Whilst the guidelines here have been standard for more than a decade, it seems likely that this is an area we will hear a huge amount more research on in coming years.
Families with a history of allergies and asthma will also be interested in the research in microbiomes. We have numerous allergies and a history of childhood asthma – and now part of me is thinking we need to add a pet (we won’t!). How these relate to what a baby is exposed to will be fascinating research in the future!
Have you watched Babies on Netflix? I would love to hear your thoughts on Episode 2! What did you find most interesting?