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10+ Must-Watch Documentaries For Parents & Parents-To-Be

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Skye Parrot's family home, photographed by Maia Harms

With chilly fall days upon (some of) us, it’s the perfect time to hunker down and watch a great flick. Bonus points if you can actually learn something while you’re at it. Which brings us to a couple handfuls of our top picks for documentaries covering parenting, kids, and motherhood topics. Is your favorite doc left off our list? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, start filling up your watch lists with our selects below, put the kids to bed, pop some popcorn, and hit play.

The Beginning of Life (Available on Neflix, iTunes, and Google Play)
An absolute must-watch for all parents, this 2016 flick, which is supported by UNICEF, explores the importance of the precious first years of a child’s life, covering a plethora of child development topics supported by the latest research (everything from cognitive and emotional development to social awareness) in one fell swoop.

The Mask You Live In (Available on Neflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play)
We know many of the dangers facing our daughters, but the tragedy facing our sons has gone all but ignored. This fantastic documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s The Representation Project is looking to change all of that, providing a deep dive into the emotionally stunted lives of American boys and young men who are struggling to live within our country’s narrow and troubling view of what makes a man a man.

Screenagers (Find a screening or host one here)
An important film for everyone living (and parenting) in the Age of Distraction. Screenagers is directed by a mother/doctor and looks at our increasingly screen-addicted kids and what all of this technology is doing to their brains, self-esteem, social lives, and more. Especially startling are the stats and anecdotes surrounding girls and social media and boys and gaming.

Babies (Available on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play)
A feel-good flick that follows the first year of life for four babies in four very different parts of the world—Namibia, Mongolia, Japan, and the United States. Voiceovers are replaced by thoughtful, humorous, and carefully edited bits of film juxtaposing the fascinating world of babies around the globe.

Miss Representation (Available on Neflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play)
The female counterpart to The Representation Project’s aforementioned film, The Mask You Live In, Miss Representation explores all of the hardships facing our girls, thanks to predominant culture, sexed-up media, and even Disney princesses. Everyone from Condoleezza Rice and Katie Couric to Rachel Maddow and Gloria Steinem weigh in.

Breastmilk The Movie (Available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play)
This lactation-themed doc chronicles several mothers from different cultural and financial backgrounds before they have their children, getting their views on breastfeeding and how they imagine it will go for them. Then, once the babies arrive, viewers get to see the women caught in the full throes of motherhood and the breastfeeding battles that often come along with it. An essential watch for first-time mamas-to-be. You can also check out our Q&A with the director here.

This Is Birth With Lisa Ling (On CNN.com)
Renowned journalist Lisa Ling brings us up to date on a handful of hot topics surrounding birth and pregnancy in the United States. The online series has five easy-to-digest, easy-to-relate-to chapters—C-Sections, Midwives, Biological Clock, Surrogacy, and Discrimination. An excellent primer for anyone about to enter parenthood.

The Business of Being Born (Available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play)
Ricki Lake’s seminal 2008 documentary about the prevalence of C-sections and medicated births in U.S. hospitals, which has informed countless women about the natural birth movement, the importance of midwives, and birth plans.

More Business of Being Born (Available on Amazon and iTunes)
A 2011 follow-up to The Business of Being Born, this 3-part series dives deeper into natural birth issues, including a visit to legendary midwife Ina May Gaskin‘s The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee, as well as interviews with famous mamas like Christy Turlington, Gisele Bündchen, and Cindy Crawford.

Dark Side Of The Full Moon (Available on Amazon and iTunes)
For anyone who doubts postpartum depression is a real thing, watch this doc. Produced by Jennifer Silliman, it highlights the inconsistencies in caring for women both physically and emotionally after they give birth, especially the 1.3 million American mothers who are suffering from poor maternal mental health, often with tragic results.

The Mama Sherpas (Available on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play)
Another film advocating the power and importance of midwives, The Mama Sherpas comes from the same folks who brought us The Business Being Born and Breastmilk The Movie. Be sure to pull out the tissues for this one, there’s plenty of incredibly touching birth scenes ahead.

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