After identifying all the published evidence as self-promotional, unaccredited, non-science and the founder/inventor as a credential-faking huckster, I had figured my work with the BabyPlus Prenatal Education System was done. But then last week it turned up again, and the BS just keeps coming. I was reading my review copy of Parenting, Inc., Pamela Paul's excellent new book on the Baby Industrial Complex, and she includes several pages on BabyPlus and its president and "founder," Lisa Jarrett.
Paul is careful to point out the lack of anything more than company-provided, anecdotal "proof" of Babyplus's benefits; she's clearly a skeptic, but she apparently has no idea of the complexity of the Babyplus scam. For one thing, the story of Jarrett's involvement with BabyPlus and her relationship with the inventor Dr. [sic] Brent Logan are unclear to me.
Last year, before he went mum in the face of irrefutable, uncomfortable facts, Logan commented frequently here, and then via email. He never once mentioned Jarrett's name or gave any hint that he was not the face and voice of authority on BabyPlus.
And yet, in Parenting, Inc., it's just the opposite; Jarrett makes absolutely no reference to Logan. If anything, she comes across as the sole/primary figure in the BabyPlus movement, which she started after working "as a laboratory biologist."
Much like Logan himself, who originally said his idea for BabyPlus came from his wife, who'd heard a radio interview with a guy in People Magazine who became an inventor after visiting a flying saucer, Jarrett was introduced to BabyPlus by her spouse. In a January 2008 interview for an entrepreneurial moms website, Jarrett teed up the very authoritative, scientific-sounding explanation:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your product?In other words, a near-perfect storm of trusted medical advice, Ivy League psychology expertise, scientifical "assays", and a customer so satisfied, she bought the company.
A: My husband is a physician, a reproductive endocrinologist, and was reading a medical journal in 1990. He came across an article about Dr. Brent Logan's work that caught his attention. The associated clinical trial compared developing babies introduced to three different types of auditory sounds and the cognitive influence of each: a curriculum utilizing simple rhythmic sounds similar to a mother's heartbeat, a classical musical piece, and a control group with simple white noise.
My husband was a Psychology major at Princeton before he attended medical school, and has always had an interest in early learning. This trial demonstrated that children who were introduced to the first curriculum were more alert and active as infants and continued to hit developmental milestones earlier throughout childhood. Later in life, these children were strong learners and more school ready.
The Clinical Linguistic Auditory Milestone Scale and the Vineland Social Maturity Scale were the developmental assays utilized. This curriculum was created by Dr. Brent Logan, a developmental psychologist. My husband was intrigued by the article and obtained the actual curriculum (cassette tapes back then) from Dr. Logan. We utilized the curriculum during my subsequent four pregnancies. I actually loaned out the curriculum to friends and continued noticing the multiple tangible benefits in our own children.
In 1998, I saw Dr. Logan speaking about his curriculum on The Learning Channel and realized BabyPlus was still hard to find on the commercial market. I contacted Dr. Logan and after approx. one year, I decided to purchase the global licensing rights to BabyPlus and became committed to starting a company to educate expectant parents on the benefits of the BabyPlus Prenatal Education System.
A classic point-by-point takedown follows after the jump. Enjoy.
Let's grant that her husband really is a physician [we'll come back to him later] and a Tiger. There's the inconvenient fact that no scientifically recognized "clinical trial" of Logan's "curriculum" has ever been published in an actual, professionally accredited, peer-reviewed "medical journal." A board-certified physician can read whatever he wants, but here, his professional credentials are being used to prop up and misrepresent "research" that is not recognized as such by the medical community.
If there were such a study, especially a comparative study that offered reproducible results using standard psychological evaluation tools, I would expect to find it front and center in the BabyPlus bibliography. But there is nothing of the sort.
In 1990, an non-peer-reviewed British magazine--either Doctor or Hospital Doctor, it's cited both ways--published an article titled, "A Heartbeat Away From A Blissful Birth." which mentions both prenatal music therapy and BabyPlus. Logan's claim for BabyPlus is that it will "reduce complications in pregnancy by stimulating the fetal nervous system," rendering "uncomfortable births and unhappy babies... a thing of the past." OK, then! Of the proven benefits to the kid, there's no comparative "clinical trial," though, only this mention: "He [Logan] says his claims are backed up by a 1987 pilot study of prenatal stimulation."
BabyPlus' bibliography lists the publication date of the pilot study as 1989: "Infant outcomes of a prenatal stimulation pilot study, Fourth International Congress on Pre and Perinatal Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1989." Which I take to mean "presented," since the Journal of the APPPAH [suggested motto: "desperately and unsuccessfully seeking accreditation or any professional validation since 1983!"] lists the publication date as 1991, which effectively eliminates it from Dr Jarrett's 1990 reading list.
Here's the abstract for the pilot study:
This article reports on a prenatal stimulation pilot study begun with a two-month fetus. The design provided progressive sonoral stimuli adapted from the maternal blood pulse, conforming to the prenate's natural sonic environment. Three hours of daily application lasted 7 months administered by a portable audio cassette player with transducers positioned on the abdomen. After birth, the Clinical Linguistic and Auditory Milestone Scale (CLAMS) and other measurements were used to assess development, and the study was expanded to identical twins who performed comparably with the first advantaged infant. Average receptive and expressive inventory scores at 6 months describe achievement in children one year older, 10 months beyond the gifted level.First off, hello! the "study" is of three children! This is the first/only mention of the common milestone evaluation scale, CLAMS [it doesn't mention Vineland], which seem incompatible with a discussion of "gifted" six-month-olds. As near as I can tell, CLAMS and Vineland are used to evaluate developmental delay and the degree of mental impairment, not "giftedness." [Any actual cognitive development experts feel free to correct me.]
According to Jarrett, she "purchase[d] the global licensing rights to BabyPlus" in 1998. Which does not put Logan out of the picture, far from it. According to his comments here, he only got around to patenting BabyPlus in 2002, a four years after Jarrett "founded" the company, and a full 16 years after Logan started selling the system.
Last August, Logan said that BabyPlus is currently sold in 22 countries. In Parenting, Inc., Jarrett says the company sold 8,000 units in 60 countries in 2006, and that the number is growing "10 to 25 percent each year." Which does not make a lot of sense, given the 150,000 kids Logan claims have been "advantaged" with BabyPlus. [update: actually, In this small business podcast Jarrett says they have distributors in 22-4 countries but have sold something to 60.]
Whether the growth rate's exaggerated, or the sales are understated, there's one thing for sure: the profit margin on 8,000 $150 electronic gadgets that can't cost more than $10 to make, package and ship, is pretty sweet. If they wholesale for $75, BabyPlus is grossing at least half a million dollars/year, just for making shit up. Clearly, I'm working on the wrong side of this equation.
In case this shuck'n'jiving is not enough, I've found a few more examples of BabyPlus bogusness, including one that involves one of the biggest companies in the Baby Industrial Complex. So stay tuned, there'll be a couple more posts coming soon.
Previously: BabyPlus Prenatal Audio System Makes Normal Babies Look Like Geniuses Compared To Their Stupid Parents
BabyPlus Inventor Responds: 'I Am Not A Quack. Also, Buy My Book.'
Is BabyPlus Inventor A Doctor? It Goes Without Saying