May 11, 2010

Ritmo Wonders: Is It Possible To Sell Prenatal Music System Without Being A Lying Quack?


Look, don't think I don't believe fetuses can hear in the womb, or that I think it's useless or pointless to know this well-documented reality. Talk away! Sing, chat, drum along with the radio! Introduce the family! Enjoy!

My problem with fetal sound systems is primarily with the one that started the whole $150 ball rolling, the Babyplus Prenatal Education System. And that problem? It was invented by a guy who claimed his ideas came from visiting a UFO; it has been sold for 20 years by a quack who faked his credentials and who lied about and misrepresented every single piece of scientific-sounding evidence; the company makes wildly divergent and unsubstantiated claims for educational and developmental benefits, that vary by country, depending on whatever insecurity/gullibility buttons moms in different cultures are stuck with; and it's currently being marketed widely by a fertility doctor who doesn't disclose his deep financial ties to the company, i.e., that his wife is running it. Oh, and Safety 1st, a major brand of Dorel, the biggest baby gear manufacturer in the world, rebrands and sells the thing using the exact same bullshit scientifickal nonsense claims as the Babyplus quacks themselves--and then they refuse to respond to multiple requests for explanations about it.

SO. Setting all that aside. The Ritmo Advanced Sound System For You [sic] And Your Baby. With a neoprene belt with some stereophonic speakers. Ergonomic, stylish, even. And it's just an MP3 player, and yes, they mention the debunked Mozart Effect, but they also mention the Beatles and Broadway without making any bogus scientific claims.

And yet. There's a whole section called The Science, which does make an attempt to point out that basically none of the prenatal studies in the nearly 20 years of the non-peer-reviewed research are actually studies. And Ritmo does cite that headline-friendly study from last fall about French newborns crying with French accents, which actual linguists had so many methodological complaints about, it really should be withdrawn. And as for the quotes from actual brain/ear development researchers, the best anyone can come up with is that music might be good, why not?

And so obviously, music for fetuses is even better! It's this last logical jump--and the $150 price tag--that I just can't make sense of. What you have here is a company, selling a product, which they are very carefully trying to imbue with all sorts of benefits, which are all unproved, overstated, or hypothetical at best. Which they don't care to find out or tell you. So if you're cool with that, and if singing and talking and drumming on the ol' belly isn't enough for you, and if there's really no way to talk your pregnant person out of throwing away money on an iPod belt, then definitely check out the Ritmo, because it's currently 20% off.

Ritmo™ Advanced Fetal Sound System [ via dt reader mark]

1 Comment

But wait... wasn't there some study or other that said that these kinds of systems actually agitate fetuses? I'd look it up, but I'm too lazy and don't care that much.

My own totally anecdotal, non-peer-reviewed opinion is that kids in utero don't like have music amplified at them through liquid. (I mean, seriously, who would? The sound quality must be terrible.) When I was seven or eight months pregnant, I put on some Beethoven (I'm classy), then held the headphones up to my belly. My baby kicked. "Oh, cool!" I thought. Then he kept moving around like crazy, and after a minute I got this distinct feeling that he wasn't happy. So I stopped.

He's five now, and he seems bright enough, despite having been deprived of advanced fetal sensory stimulation.

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