Netflix Twelve Part Series    ‘Babies’ Episode: #12 Toddlers

Researchers reveal the social skills toddlers naturally possess, abilities ultimately separating humans from other species.

The scientists in this episode research inner motivations and understanding of toddlers of differing ages.  Their results surprised them.  At much earlier ages than expected children understand someone is in need and want to help.  These findings coincide with the findings of the previous episode when very young children were shown puppet shows of helpers and hinderers.

It is fascinating to see in research what parents are aware of in daily life.  Children model the behavior they witness.  

Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, USA Berkeley, USA

When do children begin to understand that others like things differing from their own preferences?  Ms. Gopnik’s son understood at 2 that she liked a pineapple dessert while he did not. Toddlers are very good at reading facial expression, voice intimation, etc.

Experiment:  Will babies give the treat the adult likes or the treat they like?

The older children, 16 – 24 months of age will give you the one you like even if they don’t like it.  They have a clearer idea of the desires of others.   70% of the time they give you what you like.

Felix Warneken,  Associate professor of Psychology. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Cooperation, team work, altruistic behavior, for the good of others: What is the origin of these behaviors?  To what extent would toddlers help?  They have the desire to help and support from very young ages.  Warneken ran several experiments.  He found even chimpanzees have a communal group understanding of helping each other.  This is true in many species.

Laura Schulz, Professor of Cognitive Sciences. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts,   USA

How do children learn so much so quickly? Kids watch adults doing things.  How hard are adults trying to accomplish the task they are workin on?  Kids learn how hard to try.  Then children try.  They have a different toy/project so they can’t imitate.  They have to try themselves. The adults leave. How long do the kids persist?  He keeps trying…..  When he saw adults struggle they were highly motivated to keep trying.  The toddlers took the ques from adults.  Working very hard when the adults did!  When older these kids work harder for their goals.

We have housed international students over the years. When beginning on this journey we were told American youth are approximately 5 years more mature than students of their same age from other countries. This information has proven true. Why are American children more mature than kids of the same age from other places? I believe it is that American children are expected to carry their own weight around the house at younger ages. They are expected to clean up their rooms. put away dirty clothing, make their beds, dress themselves and more. In other countries others are hired to do these things for children. Because of this they do not learn to do them. There are also countries where the mothers take care of these chores. How then do children learn them?

Shared social community is obvious even to young children.  Families teach these values and behaviors to their children.  Children learn to practice these altruistic behaviors from birth.  Model well, your children are always watching.

Netflix Twelve Part Series    ‘Babies’ Episode:#11 Nature and Nurture

Resolving the debate of nature vs nurture three scientists show how genetics and environment work together as infants discover who they are.

The long-term debate over which is more important in child development, nature vs nurture is very interesting.  In this episode scientist weigh in on both sides of the argument.  

Philippe Rochat, Professor of Psychology, Emory Infant and Child Lab, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. USA

What is going on in the minds of infants?  What will guide them.  How do they become aware of their own thoughts and inclinations? The Mirror Mark Test ~ the child touches himself in the mirror, seeing it as himself.  Before 18 mos. does the child have any self awareness? Babies look into a mirror in a box as their own reflection.  Then they look at a person mimicking them.  Baby smiles more at the other than self.

Robert Plomin. Professor, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychological & Neuroscience,  King’s College, London, UK. Professor Plomin participated in the famous twins research studying 15,000 sets of twins followed 25 years to understand the biological impact of many things.

1994 – 2019.   The Twins Early Developmental Study. Nature. (Genetics). Vs Nurture (Environment)

15,000 pairs of twins.  Computerized birth records became available in 1993. 55M bits of information.  Tested every year for 25 years.   Personality tests.  Data from parents, the twins, their teachers     Tested for:  temperament traits. Early appearing personality traits:  fearfulness & anger, activity level, sociability & shyness, & impulsivity – attention span. All traits studied: verified genetic similarities in traits especially in identical twins. This study provided information on the largest number of twins ever researched.  The breakthrough was the year before the study began birth records were digitalized.  This allowed massive retravel of records never possible prior to this time.

Maria A Gartestein, Professor of the Gartestein Temperament Lab, Washington State University. Washington, USA

Studied temperament as a basic building block of personality. Does temperament develop over time?  In 2017 this study began with babies 4 mos of age..  How does positive expression between moms and babies, warmth, interaction between them affect their development?  Babies returned at 6 months.  Reevaluated every two months during the first year.

The experiment: Show strange dramatic unusual masks to babies, record their reactions.  Looking for eyes enlarging, brows moving, crying.  Moms are next them to help if needed.   Began at 4 months of age.  Largest changes at 8, 10, & 12 months.  

Findings:  After 8 mos. babies became more aware, resulting in stronger reactions. Moms who were more sensitive to their babies, connection, etc. had babies who were less fearful and negatively reactive.

Netflix Twelve Part Series ‘Babies’ Episode: #10 RELATIONSHIPS

A coy smile, a puppet show and a pointed finger lead to discoveries in  how babies get along with others using humor, morality, and shared experience.

Study of morality, judging similarities with others, social interaction.

Vasudevi Reddy, Professor of Developmental and Cultural Psychology, University of Portsmouth, UK.            

Infants have great interest in relationship, connecting, interacting.

Ms. Reddy studied 5 babies from 7 weeks to 5 months of age.  She filmed them in 3 situations in an effort to chart when they connected.  She used coy smiles as her mean for the study.  

Kiley Hamlin. Associate professor of Phycology. University of British Columbia,  Vancouver, Canada Questions:  When do children begin understanding those who are helpful or not helpful. This realization is earlier than previously believed.

       Puppet shows were presented as a way to chart infant reaction. This is because babies enjoyed watching them and responding. Climbing character tried and tried to climb the hill. Second character comes and pushed him up the hill – helper. Third character pushed the character down the hill – hinderer

Kids have to choose their favorite by looking at him or touching his puppet.  No 6 month subject studied chose the hinderer. 10 months old’s 2 of 16 chose hinderer. 3 month old’s all chose helper Morality is not all learned, we are born with it!!!  Profound realization!!!!! When do babies start identifying with a particular person, someone like them? Babies were provided graham crackers or green beans. The test puppet chooses same food as the infant. This indicates he is a friend When puppet was not selecting the same food as the subject it was not interpreted he was on team. Infants are aware early who joins them and who doesn’t.

One of the puppets looses his ball the helper returnes it. Then they see their puppet play with someone who takes the ball away. Babies morality presents as those similar to me.  Not mature morality.  TEAM BASED MORALITY. People help others, animals not so much.

Melinda Carpenter, Professor Developmental Psychology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews Scotland, UK

This study was most interested in prelingual gestures in babies. We share with others, information, experiences, social things, etc. The gesture of pointing is major.

Our babies grow up and connect with the world early. They want to be a part of everything!!!  They are so amazed at everything they see!!! Babies point allot in the beginning, before words!

See things, pointing, emotions and interests that can be shared. 12 month old babies being pointing. Why?   Share?  Something else?

            Experiment: Babies point at the puppet  How many times does baby point?

  1. When experimenter does not respond to the puppet their response becomes more mellow. Not happy
  2. Second group, the adult looks only at the puppets, no comment to the kids. The babies tried to get him to connect with their points.  Then stopped pointing, when he responded, they are happy.

As previously discovered in other videos in this series, babies are far more developed at younger ages than previously believed.

Netflix Twelve Part Series ‘Babies’ Episode: #9 SENSES

Several experts make sense of how babies touch, taste, and see as they embark on a sensory journey shaping the rest of their lives.

Our five senses create the foundation of connection with other humans.  Sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell fill our memoires with the skin and bones of life.  We learn about the wonders of our world through experiencing them at this innate level.   Little is known about how this awareness develop in babies.  In this segment researchers work in several different capacities to learn how babies experience our wonderful senses!


Nathalie Maitre, Director NICU Follow up Programs NICU Developmental Therapies Nationwide Children’s Hospital, USA.  Began studying there 2015.

Recent research in skin to skin contact immediately after birth has provided physical proof holding baby up against either mommy or daddy’s skin regulates his blood sugars, helps his body stabilize body temperature, causes his bacteria to correlate with moms, and on and on.  Ms. Maitre, introduced above, found all these to be true when her son was born at 24 weeks gestation weighing 2 lbs.  She now supervises studies in these areas at the BBOP Lab. Baby Brain Optimization Project.  Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio.

The purpose of the BBOP Lab. is to research preterm and developing infants as well as toddlers, leaning how they experience our five senses.  They conducted the first study including both infants and their mothers.  Brain sensory helmets were put on baby and mom to measure how their brains responded to the same stimulus.

Mom would smile at her baby close to her, but not touch or talk to her.  Measurements were recorded as well a videoed.   Then mom would smile at her baby and touch her.  Measurements taken.  Third interaction mom would smile, touch, and speak to her baby.  Again, measurements taken.  It was found the layering of the three responses in unison created the greatest responses in babies.

Further testing was done in and effort to understand whether or not strong responses could be created with a surrogate stand-in.  Mom’s baby carrier, with her scent, was used to hold baby.  In addition, a recording of mom singing a song was recorded to play when baby sucked his pacifier.  

Result: Every touch, whisper, sound, taste, smell grows emotional connection and health in baby.

Pawan Sinah, Professor Neuroscience  Massachusetts  Institute of Technology USA.  Boston, Massachusetts

Study of visual neuroscience.    Effortlessly we open our eyes and see.

How do babies learn to see?    His son wore a webcam as a 2 week old infant. The understanding is babies see blurry at birth, eyes don’t focus.   90% of all scenes in the video were faces.  Learning to read and embrace facial expression is a huge part of human communication.  Result:  Babies are spending nearly their first year learning this. More studies concentrated on taste and how babies are affected by what their mother’s eat during pregnancy.  Very interesting.  Julie Mennella. Biological Psychologist Philadelphia, PI,   Monell Chemical Senses Center.

Netflix Twelve Part Series ‘Babies’ #8 MOVEMENT

From curiosity to understanding researchers unveil surprising ways infants learn how to anticipate and respond to the movements of others.

The study of movement, how we learn as humans to acclimate to our environment, affects everything about us.  How do babies learn?  How early are babies aware of patterns and experiences in their lives?  What are the best stimuli for infants?

These and many other questions are addressed in this segment on movement.  Using the “blank slate” understanding of years past no longer applies.  Research in many countries establishes babies are magnificent observers and are aware from birth!  It is only their inability to speak and their physical development that has masked this.  

Audrey Van Der Meer. Professor Neuropsychology, Norwegian University of Science & Technology    Trodenheim, Norway

Ven Der Meer wanted to research the intent of baby movement.  Question: At what age do infants began intentionally moving?  

Her research began with Neonate Subjects: Babies under 24 days of age.  She and her team ran thorough studies filming babies watching their hands.  They used weights and pulleys to create tension in movement, proving intent.  When a baby pulled against the weights to look at his hand this was seen as intention.  The non-viewed hand lay dormant during the experiments.  This was proven through further experimentation.  Van Der Meer submitted  the findings of each of her three different studies before the governing board in Norweigh approved and funded her results/research.

Pierre-Yvves Oudeyer. Research Director, Inria Institute for Digital Sciences, Bordeaux, France. 

What challenges babies/children to learn new things of their environment? Oudeyer developed mini robots having intelligence/learning mechanisms. 

First group of two robots:  learning to move a ball.  Learned nothing. Second group:  Free to exercise their curiosity     Learned to move ball.  After two and a half hours the second group had accomplished the goal.


Curiosity is open ended, it allows more knowledge and learning even in robots!  Exploring freely is most productive.

Gustaf Gredebac. Professor Developmental Psychology Upsalla, University Sweden We need to understand the movement of others to know where to walk, run, sit, stand. 

Premise:  “Babies are not born with the ability to anticipate, they have to learn this.”  Disproved this in his ball to bucket experiment

12 month olds understand this.   6 months olds do not

Banana feeding experiment.  4 month olds, 6 month olds, 12 month olds. Machines measure eye tracking in great detail. All babies were very attentive to the researchers feeding each other. Bananas.     Babies with much experience in being fed understood

Participants would put bananas into the mouth of the other, or on the hand of the other, than the other ate it off the hand. Older children had pronounced reaction to the change and unexpected nature of the event when food went to the hand.  Younger children did not.

The equipment also measured dealation of pupil

Later Gredeac understood that with each unique feeding all ages of babies reacted to the change in feeding behavior with surprise, even though the younger babies did not have a visible reaction.  They all knew something was different. Later, through thorough examination of the videos it was revealed that the pupils of younger infants responded by changing in size, a result not noticed in the preliminary evaluation.

“Being around these little people learning about life, the world, people is inspiring.”

Providing an experientially rich environment for your baby;  toys to touch, things to see, music to hear, tummy-time with places to move, other people, expands their horizons.

Netflix Twelve Part Series ‘Babies’ Episode: #7 WHAT BABIES KNOW

Challenging the notion of the ‘blank slate’ three studies explore how babies are born with expectations about every day life.

How does a baby adapt to her world?  Is she born with an understanding of gravity?  Why is it faces are so important to little ones?  Are they born with the knowledge of how the world works?

These are just a few of the questions researchers set out to understand in this the 7th episode of ‘BABIES’!!  Certainly these are questions every parent has mulled over at some point in time.  The thoughts going on in those little heads have baffled the world for millennia.    

The research is fascinating.  Susan Hespos. Professor Cognitive Psychology, Northwestern University,  USA.  Chicago, Illinois:  measured eye movement and attention span to study how babies differentiate between concepts they already know and new ones.  She tested 20 babies, providing them visuals she created.  They stared at their favorite for an average of 33 seconds while watching the not so exciting one 15 seconds.  Her studies prove cognitive ability unseen in babies in the animal kingdom.  Only human babies have this skill.  

Rebecca Saxe. Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience. Mass Inst of Tech,  Boston, USA set out to measure infant brains through MRI scans.  Until she began the youngest MRI scans available were on five year olds.  She soon learned why.  Infants simply can not sit still long enough to complete scans.  Prof. Saxe tried to conquer this battle for two years, until she gave birth to her own son.  She talks about being overwhelmed with the magnitude of her love for him and her desire to mother him.  Yes, as mentioned previously, there is nothing like parenthood. It truly does overwhelm one!!! 

Prof. Saxe wanted to compare brain scans of infants to those of adults to measure the similarities and differences.  Finally, after many attempts, Saxe was able to produce these scans with her infant son as the subject.  The results verified her assertions, just like adult brains, infant brains are stimulated in the same places and react the same way!

Conclusion: Infant brains are far more advanced than previously understood.  Continued study is necessary to further understand the many facets of these experiments. 

Susan Hespos. Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Northwestern University,  USA.  Chicago, Illinois Investigated concentration and memory ability through eye positioning.

Kang Lee, Professor Dr. Eric Jackman, Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, Canada. Studied the relatively short period of time in which infants can differentiate between people of differing racial presentation and language understanding.

Netflix Twelve Part Series ‘Babies’ Episode: #6 FIRST STEPS

Scientists venture into the ways walking changes a baby’s world and unveil findings on neonatal reflexes, skeletal development and talking.

Watching these videos has impressed upon me how difficult it is to change traditional thinking in the medical establishment.  Ideas that seem so matter of fact are struggled against consistently. 

In this video researchers contemplate the changes in life accompanied for both parent and child once baby has begun walking.  Certainly walking is a major milestone in the lives of infants.  It allows them previously unexperienced independence.  Now they can get to the things that interest them.  Ha!  For parents it is both a wonderful and terrifying experience.  Now their little one has to be watched 24/7 or corralled.  Ha!  

What are the motivators for babies in taking those exciting first steps?  As we learned in the video on crawling the basic instinct and motion for walking as well is crawling is present at birth!  Newborns as young as three weeks of age were recorded in the laboratory presenting all the motions necessary for walking at the Virje Universiteit, Amsterdam Netherlands, by Nadia Dominici. Associate Professor Dept. of Human Movement Sciences.

Electrodes were places under stockings to measure muscle movement and strength.  Babies universally knew exactly what to do physically.  It is only gravity keeping them from walking or crawling.  This is surprising to those in the scientific community as well as the general public.  

Columbia, MO. USA.      The Bone Detective

Libby Cowgill Associate Professor Biological Anthropology. U of Missouri, USA

Studied how physical use of body exhibits in remains.  Her studies prove the actions of crawling, pulling up at the table, pushing up during tummy time, and walking have great effect on the shaping and strength of infants as they develop.

Her measurement of the bones of infants in museums worldwide show their difference depending upon activity level.  She took measurements of over six hundred infants believed to range from 250K years in age to recent times.

Eric Walle, Professor of Developmental Psychology, UC Merced. USA studied the number of words spoken by children between the time they are immobile and learning to walk.  The theory is once babies have more control of their environment they engage more.  In addition, they see more, hear more words, etc.  Personally, I believe they are seen as more interactive by the adults around them.  And more verbal action takes place.

Netflix Twelve Part Series                  ‘Babies’ Episode: #5 SLEEP

Researchers delve into sleep, a dynamic time for babies, with studies on twitching, apps and naps.

As a doula sleep is a very common topic of discussion.  The time just after the birth of a baby is tumultuous.  The delivery is often long and exhausting.  The hospital stay is also tough in that there are nurses and lab techs in and out of your room at all hours.  By the time most families are home the first question is when will our baby sleep through the night!!

Working with families to sleep train their little ones is an adventure.  These studies look over the sleep patterns of infant brains.  The goal is to understand what goes on during sleep.  How does it affect your baby’s development, memory, and health?  What are reasonable expectations regarding baby nighttime sleep patterns?  

The findings from the studies examined in this episode surprised me.  Because there are several studies presented I am leaving much of the data in the research form.  I think it will be clearer this way.  

My goal in working with families of newborns is to have a reasonable sleep schedule for baby by the time my contract is over.  I work with baby to encourage sleeping in 2 – four hour lengths waking up once between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM.  This allows long enough sleep for mommy & daddy to feel rested.  In addition it helps mom to be rested enough to produce breastmilk well. 

Studied:  What is sleep in newborns doing? Are they learning, growing, remembering?  Is sleep needed?

New York University Baby Sleep Study

Andre Fenton, Director: Neurobiology of Cognition Lab, NYU,  USA Pascal Wallisch.  Clinical Assistant Professor Psychology & Neural Science. NYU. USA    Data specialist

Researchers visited families who were using the apps included in the study.  At the start they were unsure about verified data because families were  entering it rather than trained scientists.  Questions arouse;  Is the data authentic and well recorded?  Is it in a usable form for research?  Is it thorough? It was found parents were actually verifying information to the minute for their own records.  So yes, it was very usable.

Study consisted of 1,000 babies world wide using various apps to record sleep patterns, breastfeeding, elimination habits, and notes parents thought relevant.  The number of entries for this particular study are: 1.5 M  sleeping events. 2.5 M eating events. 1.5 M  diaper changing events

This is the data collected from the families involved.  As the researchers perused the data they came to many decisions on the outcome.


In the first month No regular sleep or eating pattern About four months.   Initial cycle emerging   Eight months           Hint of a pattern A year                        Clear pattern of sleep at night, wake eat, after noon nap

At the time the video was released researchers were not yet ready to present information for publishing, but were certain their findings were verifiable.

My personal assessment: My own children began sleeping completely through the night at 6 months and the introduction of solid food. I had five babies ranging in weight from 7 lb. 5oz. to 9 lb. 8 oz. I was told larger babies slept through the night earlier. Not true in my experience. I solely breastfed for the first six months, no formula, cereal, or solid food. What I know now, as a doula, my guess is perhaps the protein content of my milk was not high enough. If I were working with a mom experiencing what I did that is where I would begin.

I encourage moms to breastfeed solely for six months. Babies with whom I have worked have begun sleeping in 5 or 6 hour blocks in the first week. They make up for missed evening feedings by adding daytime feedings. It is amazing. There are so many possible factors. As a doula I monitor mom’s food and water intake as best I am able. Mom’s sleep and relaxation also have an impact. Mom’s mental state, calm or stressed, is also a factor. My goal is to work through each of these components as baby matures and the family acclimates to parenthood. It can be a wild ride!!!

Netflix Twelve Part Series ‘Babies’ Episode: #4 FIRST WORDS

Experts examine the rhythm and flow of language and explore how babies break down linguistic beats before they know how to speak.

It is fascinating to review the tenants of how we learn language.  Children vary widely in when and how they begin to speak.  Some dabble with language for a long time before becoming verbal.  When they began communicating it is in full sentences, and amazingly clear.  Others begin saying words early and quickly begin communicating in other ways.  It is an amazing process to observe.  I have babies begin trying to communicate as early as three months.  

In working with families during the first months of their baby’s life I encourage them to communicate often with their children.  I encourage them to speak about the things they love, sharing their passion and excitement with their children even though the words are foreign.  Reading to their infants from their favorite magazines or books encourages connection.  In my mind it is the connection with baby inspiring language and communication.  So many things are part of the communication process.  Body language, emotion, and touch contribute to making one’s intentions known.  The cadence and sound of language is a part of the whole.  

Two Research Studies in this area.

Kathy Hirsh-Paske. Director, Infant Language Lab. Temple University, Philadelphia, Penn. USA

Children begin leaning about language in utero as soon as they can hear. They hear the melody’s of speech continually. They begin communicating through cries, then grunts, hand motions. 

Tested for recognition between natural and unnatural patterns of speech. Found babies understood the differences and became board with the normal patterns of speech, preferring the made up patterns.

My own assessment:  It is difficult for me to see the recognition and learning researchers claimed.  I want a more definitive scientific way of clarifying the baby’s reactions.

Erich Jarvis. Proff. Lab of Neurogenetics of Language. Rockfeller UniversityUSA.  Dancer. Turned to science. Why can some animals imitate sound and some can’t?              5 vertebrate animals can.            Vocal learners,  

3 birds:  Humming Birds, parrots, songbirds 5 animals:  Elephants, dolphins, bats, seals & humans. Must be able to imitate novel sound

Research began in 1989. Wanted to understand/prove vocal pathways were same as humans.  8 years later. Accidental discovery. Imitating flying stimulated song areas of the brain. Gestures and songs work same part of the brains. For babies. Physical motion stimulates language centers. Like walking it takes time to learn.

Netflix Twelve Part Series ‘Babies’ Episode: #3 CRAWLING

From how they grow to how they go, three researchers find out crawling is much more than just a transitional phase.

The qualities of movement are the topic of this video. Why do babies crawl? When do they learn this movement? How do they learn where and when to move in self protection? Fascinating topics of research and even more so for new parents. French researchers studied many babies, realizing they learn the processes but often at different times. Also realizing babies are born with many of their more mature movements in place, they simply lack the strength to practice them!!! The pull of gravity does not allow them the motion they practiced in the womb.  When allowed to move freely in water newborns crawl, swim, reach and more.  The personality of the baby and his adventuresome spirit have a great effect on when these changes take place.

A second topic of this video is growth rates of newborns/infants. In 1981, Michelle Lampl, a professor at the Center for the Study of Human Health at Emory University, Atlanta, began a study measuring the growth rate of babies weekly.  There were 30 babies in the study.  Lampl went to the homes of each of the babies measuring them weekly.  She found normal growth rates.  In order to have more exact measurements she requested funds to measure the 30 subjects twice a week.  She found there were several infants who would go many days with no growth then experience a growth spurt.  In order to closer verify her findings she believed it necessary to measure the growth rate daily.  Her research showed babies do not grow at the rate indicated on the growth charts.  Babies would not grow in length at all for several days or even a week.  Then they would grow several centimeters in a day!  This was hard to believe.  Yet, the consistent results and the number of subjects made it undeniable.

In providing the previously discovered research findings to the medical community Lampl was met with great resistance.  Trying to change established medical thinking, even when the research is verifiably authentic, is an uphill battle.