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Alternative Narrative

Beyond the differences

All babies want to explore and learn from their own experiences, either with a stick or either with a toy doll.

Beyond the differences

I still remember the first time I saw the documentary called ‘’Bébés’’, in English ‘’Babies’’. It was at the university when my lecturer was speaking about how we can perceive the similarities in the differences among cultures and contexts. Sometimes, those things that seem so different from each other, they can have more in common than we think.

The documentary shows the life of 4 new-borns until they turn 1 year old. These children were born in different parts of the world, so the movie wants us to look at how the context can influence the way that you raise a child and how the various customs of each culture can impact on the child’s development. It alternates the life of Ponijao (from a remote area in Namibia), Bayarjargal (from a rural area in Mongolia), Mari (from the center of the capital of Japan) and finally, Hattie (from San Francisco, California).

Babies. (2010). ‘’ Babies (2010) Official Trailer – Documentary HD’’. Retrieved from


The differences between their lifestyle are very obvious since the beginning. For example, it is already reflected on the way their mothers give birth. Ponijao’s mother gives birth at her basic home, without any kind of assistance while other mothers go to the hospital. The importance of children’s contact with the environment is very present in the entire movie.

Pinjao lives in a remote area in Namibia, so he starts to know things and explores the place through his body and putting everything in his mouth. As we can see, his main interaction with peers is with his brothers and with some other child from his small community. Bayarjargal, has a similar interaction process in Mongolia. His main contacts are his mother and brothers and also, all the animals, which belong to the farm that his mother is running. Either in the cases of Namibia or Mongolia, the movie presents a mono-parental family. Due to that and to the small social network, the mothers have to take their children (and sometimes carrying them) to the work.

Figure 1: Ponijao playing with his mum in Namibia. Babies. (2010). Retrieved from

On the other hand, the context in the middle of the city changes a lot from rural areas. In Tokyo or San Francisco, the child is receiving a lot of ‘’inputs’’ and she/he has to get used to listening to and see people and sounds frequently because we cannot forget that we are talking about a child who has less than a year of life. Mari and Hattie are surrounded by a huge stimulation since the first days of life. For instance, the fact of having lots of different toys changes the way children explore. The documentary does not make clear statements but in this case, it lets the audience think about if these babies are suffering overstimulation. Moreover, the families shown in developed countries have an extended familiar network and we can see the children interacting with other relatives.


Figure 2: Mari sleeping in his bedroom in Tokyo. Babies. (2010). Retrieved from

It is obvious that the countries differences affect people’s behaviors and as a consequence, to the child’s development. Some mothers prefer that children can experiment by his/herself and others would rather teach the children how to experiment. Some mothers prefer the children in contact with objects and others would rather children have more contact with nature and animals. Some mothers prefer to mark the pace of learning and others would rather let the child at his/her own learning pace. These are some of the differences that we can appreciate but maybe it is time to talk about the similarities because although we think that there are not, we have to look at beyond it.


Figure 3: Bayarjargal in his home in Mongolia. Babies (2010). Retrieved from

All babies were breastfed and the fourth baby seemed to be very well nourished. In other words: all mothers have affection for their children. The four families confirm moments when the maternal bond is really remarkable. They always find a space to be alone playing with their children and taking care of them. So, mothers have a love for their children in every part of the world and this affection and this maternal bond is really needed for the development of the child, besides in the first three years.

On the other hand, if there is something that I have learned in my life is that children are equal in every part of the world, and this, is illustrated in the movie. All babies want to explore and learn from their own experiences, either with a stick or either with a toy doll. Children are disconnected from the difference, prejudices or stereotypes. Their main interest is to interact with the beings that are surrounded by and feeling and discovering what is good and what is not

Figure 4: Hattie playing with a smartphone in California. Babies. (2010). Retrieved from

Even though the babies were raised in different environments they still went through similar types of development. They all crawled, began to walk, talk, taking steps and beginning to babble words. Some did it faster than others and this is why the difference is in the rhythm, not in the process itself. Sometimes, it is not easy to find the similarities within the differences but maybe we should have to make the effort. Here is one example of a child’s development but the first thing that comes to our mind is that maybe some mothers do not have an appropriate attitude to raise their child. Even so, it is helpful to look at the details and not to judge simply because some mother is taking care of his/her child in another way from yours.

This movie can help us to extrapolate this example in our perceptions and visions of other cultures and see in which context individuals are developing themselves and from that, to reflect on why their context and environment is that and no other. Going back to the causes of actions would be an interesting point to start thinking about in all development spheres.

 Carla Sala

Sources: Chabat, A,. Balmès, T. (2010). Babies. France: StudioCanal.



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