We love babies at the best of times, but after watching Netflix's new, 12-part docuseries, we're fawning over newborns. HARD.
Raising a baby is no doubt, pretty darn hard – especially when you’re a first-time mum and have no clue what to do. It truly takes a village, and we can’t thank our parents, relatives, helpers and confinement nannies enough for assisting us. But besides feeding our infant, changing their soiled nappies and trying our darndest to get them to sleep, honestly – there’s not a lot we know about them.
Until now. Thanks to Netflix’s newest documentary series, Babies, you can gain an insight into the first year of a bub’s life – and we’re addicted. Over the course of the series, you’ll learn more about the science of infant development and their developmental milestones by following 15 diverse families and their babies over the span of a year. Plus, the series is interlaced with mewling babies and adorable infants in EEG caps (ah, baby fever!).
Here are five mind-blowing facts we’ve learned from watching Babies. All together now: wowwwwww…
#1: Dads: they love bubs as much as mums, too
We’ve always known mums and babies have a unique, emotional bond, both throughout pregnancy and after childbirth. Ever wondered why? Thanks to a study conducted by Professor Ruth Feldman from the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) Herzlia in Israel, it’s been shown that levels of oxytocin – dubbed the love hormone – rise during pregnancy. And those happy hormone levels also continue to rise post-birth, when mothers and infants bond.
But what about dads? Physiologically, do dads “love” their babies less because they haven’t gone through the process of pregnancy and childbirth? Here’s where things get interesting. Professor Feldman found that when dads put in the effort to take care of their child, feed them and engage in parenting, their oxytocin levels rise, too. And what’s more, they were identical to oxytocin levels in mothers! So, guess who’s taking over baby duty this weekend while Mum takes a break from parenting…
#2: Owning a dog or a cat lowers your baby’s chance of developing childhood asthma
As mums, we’re always concerned about what our kids put in their mouths. And babies love to do that! Not only is it a part of their development, but it’s how they recognise texture and taste, plus signifies they’re teething. Although many of us can’t help but worry they’ll fall ill after ingesting all the germs aka microbes (think bacteria, fungi and viruses) that live on the surface of these items. Eugh.
However, contrary to popular belief, scientific studies have shown it’s actually good for our babies to ingest microbes as wee l’il humans because it influences their health later in life. Plus, being exposed to dogs or cats in a newborn’s early life can help protect them from developing immune diseases like childhood asthma.
And, as it turns out, your cat or dog’s microbes do more than protect your baby from immune diseases. A study led by Professor Susan Lynch from the University of California San Francisco found some fascinating results. Babies raised in households with dogs (and, to a lesser extent, cats) protects your baby from developing asthma because they bring a diversity of bacteria in your home. In turn, having no pets means your baby will have less bacterial exposure and a greater chance of developing childhood asthma. So, perhaps it’s perfectly okay for the pup to steal the little one’s snacks and lick their faces every now and then…
#3: The nutrients you produce in your breast milk differ depending on if you have a newborn boy or girl
If you’ve breastfed your child, you’ll know how important breast milk was during the early stages of an infant’s life (although we ALWAYS stand by the #fedisbest approach!). Not only does it provide all the nutrients your newborn needs in their first six months, but its nutritional benefits also contribute to a baby’s cognitive, metabolic and immune development.
But there’s so much more to learn about milk! And that’s what Katie Hinde, associate professor of evolutionary biology at Arizona State University, sought to find out… By using monkey milk! And the results were pretty surprising. After collecting and measuring the amount of fat, protein and carbohydrates in the milk, its volume and at different times of lactation, she found that milk produced was richer and denser for sons than it was for daughters. Turns out, mothers make a different biological recipe of milk depending on the sex of their baby. Milk produced for sons is richer in fat or protein – echoing the results of other milk studies. While scientists are still studying to find out how milk affects infant development, we’re just amazed she succeeded in milking a monkey. Go, science!
#4: Sleep helps little ones protect their memories
All mums can attest to the importance of naps – without napping, our little ones will go absolutely bonkers. Throwing tantrums, being fussy… the list continues. And we’ve heard the old adage of how important sleep is for the brain. But have you ever wondered why it’s particularly important for the little ones to get their sleep?
Turns out, the art of napping is extremely important in helping your baby protect their memories. How? Here’s where Professor Rebecca Spencer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst comes in. She and her team conducted an experiment where she taught nine-month-old babies specific ways of playing with toys that they hadn’t seen before, and in a different action than the babies would normally play with.
Cue adorable scenes of babies in EEG caps (nawww!). She found babies who took their naps could remember these specific actions taught to them, but conversely, those who skipped their naps could not. The bottom line? Naps are important for our little ones, and hey, us mums get a little break, too.
#5: Babies acquire language through data processing
Learning a language is tough, especially as an adult. We can only imagine it’s tougher for a baby with no prior knowledge of a language to learn in the first two years of postnatal life, right? Well, a study conducted by Professor Jenny Saffran of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that a baby’s brain is well developed and equipped to sort out pieces of languages. And, they do that by processing which sounds go together.
Professor Jenny Saffran explains it in this way: if there’s a dog, a stick and a bone, and the baby hears ‘doggie’, and later in the day sees a dog, a ball and a shoe in the park and hears the word ‘doggie’, the baby will use a process of elimination to figure out that the word ‘doggie’ must refer to a dog. How cool!