There isn’t a parent among us who hasn’t stared at their baby — sometimes in fascination, but just as often in frustration — and wondered “What is going on in that little brain?!” If only they could give us a smidge of insight into why they’re crying, how they’re managing to pick up new skills faster than you can blink (like perfectly mimicking that f-bomb you accidentally let slip … one time), and what they actually want when nothing seems to satisfy.
Of course, babies don’t come with instruction manuals, so since the dawn of time moms and dads have just been giving it their best guess and parenting through trial and error (sorry, firstborns). And as much information is literally at our fingertips thanks to the Internet, sometimes we’re almost over-saturated — and it can be really hard to tell what “facts” are actual, scientifically-based evidence and which are not.
Enter Netflix’s new six-part series Babies, which follows 15 international families with infants, combining their real-world baby raising experiences with an in-depth scientific look at what goes on during the first year of life. The producers chose the topics they wanted to cover, and sought out scientists who are doing groundbreaking work on those topics, putting together a team of experts to deliver answers to parents’ most burning questions about their babes.
Scary Mommy spoke to Sara Brailsford, an executive producer from Nutopia (the production company behind the series), who expressed that they wanted the documentary to be not only informative, but relatable.
“By mixing the science with the documentary material of 15 real families and their babies, the series delivers a real insight into what’s happening with your baby but hopefully reassures you that you are not alone — all parents worry about milestones, their babies not feeding or sleeping. It’s universal,” Brailsford says. “It’s a pretty intimate portrayal of the peaks and troughs of parenting a baby, but so full of joy and warmth. Seeing these babies grow up over the series, and even through an episode, is really fascinating.”
From first breaths to first steps, the docu-series shows us the familiar realities of new parenthood … and, finally, the scientific reasons behind those realities. For example, a surge of the hormone oxytocin at birth opens up a part of the brain called the amygdala, responsible for vigilance and worry — and once a mother’s amygdala is open it stays like that forever (as any of us who’ve had kids can attest, the worry is never-ending). In similar scans, however, the father’s amygdala was open only about 1/4 as much as the mother’s … with the amazing exception of fathers who are the primary caregivers.
This isn’t the only fact in Babies that will make you marvel at how awe-inspiring the human body is; far from it, in fact. Brailsford says that in creating the series, there were “so many” unexpected findings.
“I was struck by how little research there was in some key areas, like breast milk, and how much we still have to discover,” she says. “One finding I loved, but didn’t get in the series, is that breast milk carries melatonin at night but not during the day. Even though it seems impossible to get a baby to sleep at times, nature is trying to give you a helping hand!”
Whether you’re currently parenting an infant, already in the “been-there-done-that” phase, or are just testing the waters of potential parenthood, Babies is a must-see if you’ve ever wondered about the inner workings of these enigmatic little humans (and, okay, yourself).
So much goes on in that first year that we’ve never been able to truly understand the depth of — until now. “Never underestimate a baby!” says Brailsford of what she hopes people will take away from the series. “Babies are the smartest learning machines on the planet, and we should prioritize and resource their early years care as best we can.”
There are another six shows coming out later in the year, she says, focusing on how babies make sense of the world around them and examining what babies are born knowing and what they have to learn. “We would love to carry on all the way through to teenagers and young adults,” she adds, “but that’s up to Netflix.”
We should totally start a petition. Because we’ve seen how informative Babies is when it comes to our infants … and we could really, really use some help decoding our teens too.
Part one of Babies is now available on Netflix.