1 April 2011, by Tan Yi Lin
Earlier this week, I blogged about my wonderful – but pretty useless – cup phone device, which is now collecting dust on my bedside table as a result of severe neglect.
I decided to take childhood education a step further by hooking up instead to the Babyplus Prenatal Education System. Actually, “decided” is quite an understatement. The Babyplus unit belongs to my friend Jeannie, who kindly loaned it to me. The recommended “age” to start using the unit is at 18 weeks of pregnancy, so I was quite excitedly counting down in anticipation to that magic number.
How It Works
The unit comprises of 16 sound sequences or lessons that resemble the mother’s heartbeat. You basically strap the unit around your belly and play each hour-long lesson twice a day. Just like how pregnant women take a daily pre-natal vitamin to improve and enrich the child’s nutritional environment, these audio exercises seek to enrich the child’s learning environment, based on the belief that a child’s learning ability and intellect develops most significantly during its time in the womb when the brain is at its most receptive stage.
Since the baby’s hearing is fully developed by 18 weeks (I should have known that the cup phone wouldn’t work before this!), the baby can actually compare and contrast simple sounds. However, the only consistent sound presented to the baby 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the remaining 22 weeks, is the mother’s heartbeat. While the uterus is not soundproof, any external sounds that can be heard by the child come across as muffled fleeting white noise – pretty much like how you hear sounds underwater. Thus, by deliberately presenting new sounds to an otherwise predictable environment through the Babyplus unit, the baby reacts with interest and curiosity to these new sounds, which it recognises are different from the mother’s heartbeat. Eliciting this response from the baby is what helps to stimulate its brain.
What It Sounds Like
The Babyplus unit comes at a set volume and at first, at 105 decibels, the beats sounded alarmingly loud. I wrote to the customer service contact, who reassured me that after passing through my abdomen, the sounds are reduced to 70-75 decibels – a level that is way below the 95-decibels at which the baby hears my heartbeat (which is as loud as a rock band!) If you’re interested to know what I’ve been subjected to for 2 hours each day for the past 10 days (and that’s only Lesson 1 on repeat!), you can listen to some sample clips here. This is basically what earned the unit our nickname for it as “that toktoktok thing”, courtesy of Roy (Jeannie’s brother and Dan’s best dude) who has a very bad grasp of names and got incredibly irked by the unit ticking away when his pregnant sister sat on the couch next to him while he watched TV.
Benefits of Prenatal Learning
– More alert, responsive and interactive infants from birth
– Babies who nurse more readily and self-soothe more easily
– Regular sleep/wake cycle early on in infant’s life
– Reach early childhood milestones ahead of their peers (e.g. walk, talk)
Now, I’ve no intention of being a kiasu parent at all. Not when it comes to sussing out the best antenatal classes out there (we just conveniently signed up at KKH – cheap and good.) Not when it comes to researching on and buying the best baby items on sale (we gladly accept hand-me-downs – cheap and good.) And definitely not when it comes to childhood education. I just try to learn as much as possible through reading pregnancy and child-rearing books and magazines (also pre-loved hand-me-downs.)
Even the Babyplus programme and device doesn’t claim to produce a genius baby, any more than a pre-natal vitamin brand would claim to create a bodybuilder. It just seeks to strengthen the foundations for learning during the prenatal months.
But what I do know is how alert, interactive and smart Jeannie’s son Allen is at such a young age. I remember conversing with him ever so easily when he was just a toddler while he deftly pieced together a rather complicated set of jigsaw puzzles. Jeannie used the Babyplus unit when she was pregnant with her second son Bryan too. I haven’t had the chance to meet Bryan yet (the family stays in Vietnam) but from the photos I see, he looks all set to be just as bright and active as his brother.
Will It Work For Us?
I honestly don’t know. What’s working now, is the Babyplus unit’s ability to lull me and Dan straight to sleep with its soothing beats! I’ve also had to reschedule my waking time to squeeze in a lesson before going to work. Since the unit beeps quite loudly, I can’t possibly wear it while on the MRT trip to work for fear of being arrested for terrorism, nor do I want to wear it while at work. So I wake up at 6.10am, strap the unit on, set it to start beeping and go back to sleep for an hour! The 2nd lesson is conducted at night before I go to bed. My parents find it very amusing when I sit around the house on weekends beeping like a time bomb. I can’t walk around with the unit just yet as the belt is still very loose for my tummy size so it hangs and beeps at my crotch when I stand…. which is…. not right. I can’t wait to grow into it.
If you’re interested in getting the unit, it retails at S$318 in Singapore.
Now excuse me while I go hook myself up to that toktoktok thing and fall asleep…