"The human body is such a miracle and even more of a miracle is the brain that runs it... Want some examples? If you happen to be pregnant at this moment and happen to know that you are, try looking at your watch for one minute. Do you know what happened during those sixty seconds? At the end of the sixty seconds, your baby had a quarter of a million more brain cells than he had when you began counting, sixty seconds earlier."
-Glenn Doman, How to Teach Your Baby to Be Physically Superb
I am continually amazed by the miracle of human development.
When I first began discovering the incredible world of early learning three and a half years ago via Glenn Doman, this also led to the discovery of the interesting, semi-related topic of "in utero learning", or prenatal stimulation.
While I recognize that the unborn human infant is most definitely a living, learning, thinking, growing, and incredible creature, I am leery of most commercial "prenatal stimulation" products promising, usually: smarter, more alert, better-sleeping, better-nursing, faster-developing, calmer, happier newborns, without any real basis for their claims.
BabyPlus comes to mind, for example. The devise promises all these results and more, by playing different heartbeat-style sounds for your baby for two hours a day. The website is filled with fanatical parent testimonials, but as I read I began to wonder - how do the parents know a difference versus what their baby would have been like without the $150 sound box? Isn't this a classic example of "placebo effect"?
I am not entirely critical or skeptical of the idea that playing heartbeat sounds could one day be found to be somehow beneficial to the baby (the idea is that the baby learns to differentiate between his mother's heartbeat and the artificial heartbeat, supposedly making him more aware of his surrounding and stimulating curiosity in his environment).
But for a product to make such hefty claims, boasting everything from babies that nurse better to heightened school readiness, seems to me to smell a little of snake oil.
The idea of unborn babies learning to differentiate sounds seems like it's pretty obviously already happening - the differences in mother's heartbeat when she is resting, vigorously active, or somewhere in between; the difference of the intestinal sounds as mother digests different foods or when the digestive system is at rest; the different sounds of mother's blood flowing at different rates; the sound of his own self as he swooshes around in the womb; and, of course, all the different external sounds that he hears, from music to voices to the sound of traffic, or the difference in the noise level at daytime and night. Differentiation of sounds for the unborn doesn't seem to me like something BabyPlus invented.
Stimulation I Believe In
What shall we say then? Is the idea of influencing the unborn child laughable, or is there merit to any these techniques?
I understand and recognize from the growing amount of research how much of a "little person" unborn children are, everything from being able to dream, play, acquire tastes for certain foods, and enjoy Cat in the Hat. Unborn babies can hear, see light, feel, taste, and even smell. At birth they recognize their mother's voice and even can distinguish and prefer their native language. Certainly, learning is happening long before baby makes his exit from the womb.
So what is my take? I...
Talk to my baby We all do. Mom, dad, and big brother. He's never too young to benefit from hearing language, and he is learning to recognize our voices, which will hopefully be a comfort and familiarity when he makes his entrance.
Play cause and effect When he kicks, I like to gently poke back. And talk to him. It is a fun give-and-take little game, and often it actually seems like he is playing with me. Theoretically, he is learning about cause and effect, but I'm sure he is already learning about this in other ways too. I just see it as a fun bonding experience.
Play great music No, I don't strap headphones to my abdomen. But since music, especially classical, is so beneficial to everyone, it certainly can't hurt to expose him to it now. Hunter listens to it daily already every afternoon for several hours, so little guy gets to get in on it too. Currently, we are on Tchaikovsky.
Read Again, baby boy #2 gets in on the reading I do with Hunter every afternoon. Also, the "baby's chapter" is Proverbs chapter 3 (the first 24 verses), which we read every night. I got the idea from someone I read about who used to read Proverbs 3 to their boys and Proverbs 31 to their girls on the day of their birth. To me this is more preferable than the Cat in the Hat, and hopefully the baby will not only benefit from the beautiful language currently, but will recognize "his" proverb when I continue to read it to him nightly as he grows.
Even with these "stimulating" these that I do do, I still believe that the most important gift, advantage, and interaction I can give my baby is giving my body (and his) the proper nutrients (and keeping out as many toxins as possible), exercising regularly, and avoiding stress.
All these "stimulating" things are fun and I do know that my baby is already learning from his environment (with or without my help), but nothing can compare to the gift of health (which includes a healthy brain)!
"For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."
Baby boy #2 is 25 weeks, 0 days gestation