Prenatal Learning Products Draw Expert Skepticism

Products claim benefits for baby -- but scientists call the claims unfounded.

ByABC News
January 8, 2010, 12:50 PM

Jan. 12, 2010 — -- For those who say you're never too young to learn, try typing "smart baby" into YouTube. It may give you some doubts.

You'll find plenty of brainy babies who will dazzle you with geography and other skills, their parents pushing them every step of the way. But you might find yourself thinking there is such a thing as too young to learn.

Monique Heller, of Essex, Conn., is nine months pregnant. She's already started trying to teach her new baby... before the new daughter is even born.

"I want to give her every advantage that we're able to," said Heller. "And to a certain extent, I want her to be prepared for school as early as possible."

Heller uses a device called Baby Plus, marketed as a "prenatal education system." The motto: "Your womb ... the perfect classroom."

"I used it in my pregnancy with my daughter Giovanna," said Heller. "And I'm using it now with my second daughter. And the product claims to help babies self-soothe and come out of the uterus a little more calm."

Heller insists it worked for her first daughter. So why not for daughter No. 2? The device straps right onto the mother's belly, for one hour, twice a day.

Baby Plus spokeswoman Lisa Jarrett explained how the device works.

"It plays a sound that is simple and similar to the maternal placental heartbeat. And that encourages a child to discriminate. That discrimination over time strengthens learning skills for life."

Proponents of the device claim it leads to babies that nurse more readily, that soothe themselves, that are more interactive and responsive, more relaxed and more ready for school.

"Ninety-seven percent of parents who utilize this curriculum would use it again, recommend it to a friend, and feel that it has made a difference," said Jarrett.