Netflix Babies Reviewed – Episode 1: Love
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 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, Brain Development
- It’s amazing it took til 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 fucking awful to watch happen but has really fascinating results
- Babies are social from birth – it is part of their wiring to engage with their care givers
- Babies crying when you are driving is up there as one of the most stressful things ever!
- The Still Face experiment is used to test a lot of 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!
Reflecting on the episode
The first episode 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 makes it very accessible however – I’ve seen a fair few people complaining about the lack of babies! For me though it was great, and backed up a lot of my own learning with CalmFamily and the concepts in BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm.
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 to see that this research is being done, and more widely done. The feminist in me wants to have the whole discussion about the reasons WHY this research is only being done now as well. However, it’s sad that people are still telling researchers that no-one cares or wants to hear about research into women and babies or that there’s no money in it.
I found it really quite painful to hear parents reporting that health care professionals are still giving out advice that is contrary to all that the research is teaching us – Destiny talks about her paediatrician telling her to nurse less often so that tiny Dakota doesn’t start ‘using’ her. Until we can match up this division between what the science is telling us and what people hear from their health care providers we are doing parents a massive disservice. The lack of comment about this moment as well can look like the program is saying this is normal and the proper thing to do – when it’s not based on the science at all.
Following the range of families is wonderful – both Willow and Dakota had mother’s who went back to work early and father’s fulfilling 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 nursing is still hidden away or presented as unusual and this was a refreshing change.
I’ve been reading more into the research that is covered in the program. The research discussed during the episode is not the most up to date research for some of these scientists – they are involved in a whole host of cutting edge work around early childhood. Professor Feldman’s area of expertise is around long studies of the connections between biology and behaviour. Ed Tronick continues to research what affects infant and parental mental health and his ‘Still Face’ experiment is widely used to investigate 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?