How to Have a Smarter Baby

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Reviewed Publisher: 
Rawson Assoc. N.Y. 1985.
Reviewed Title: 
How to Have a Smarter Baby

Susan Ludington-Hoe has written a practical, easy to read guide for parents who want to provide a stimulus rich environment for their babies and thus maximize their potential. The first 45 pages deal with the world of the unborn and the rest of the book concerns itself with the newborn child and infant.

The post-natal sections of the book are incredibly good. We learn about the sensory capabilities of the baby and how to stimulate them through a wide variety of games, toys and tools. The author provides the reader with step by step procedures, even drawings, that parents can trace on paper or cloth for posters, mobiles, flash cards, etc. This information is simply terrific.

The part of the book that describes prenatal development with prenatal stimulation is not on a par with the rest of the book. In the first place, though all the research is totally up to date with references to DeCasper, Van de Carr, Olds, etc. some of the actual data are wrong. For example, she states "In experimental situations thirty-four week old fetuses have been observed to swallow a sweetened amniotic fluid more often than distasteful amniotic fluid" (p. 19). I assume this statement is based on A.W. Liley's studies (The fetus as a personality, Australian and N.Z. Journal of Psychiatry, 1972, 6(2) 99-105). However, Liley states that the preference for sweetened amniotic fluid is observable at 18 weeks. That's quite a difference! According Susan LudingtonHoe, "Taste buds are formed by the twentieth week" (p. 19). Bradley and Stern (The development of the human taste bud during the fetal period, J. of Anatomy, 1967,101,743-752) have shown conclusively that taste buds are functioning between 13.5 and 15 weeks of gestation. A finding that coincides with the reflex studies of Hooker and Humphrey (Hooker, D. The prenatal origin of behavior, Univ. of Kansas Press, 1959, Humphrey, T., Some correlation between the appearance of human fetal reflexes and the development of the nervous system. Progress in Brain Research, 64(4) 93-133).

All the developmental markings are similarly off, always erring on the side of later rather than earlier currently accepted dates.

There is one statement in the book that really puzzles me, namely "Large head size . . . is a direct reflection of the number of brain cells and the density of the dendrites." (p. 37). The implication here is that if you stimulate your baby prenatally, it will grow a big brain and a big head. If that was true, your average football player would be a lot smarter than your average chess player. What's more, the average female brain is smaller and weighs considerably less than the average male brain. Do I need to say more?

I totally subscribe to all the advice and suggestions the author makes with one important exception. I don't like the idea of recording a "Prenatal Tape" (p. 26) and then playing it three times a night. All the concerns that I raise in the Editorial of this issue apply here. Furthermore, I detest canned laughter on television and I don't think much of it here either. What I object to most is the mechanization of pre-natal, parentchild communication and the consequent loss of feeling and spontaneity. I would rather that the parents spoke less and perhaps not so perfectly but with genuine emotion. It's the difference between a parent reading a story to a child and telling a story from memory. It's just not the same.

In spite of the above mentioned shortcomings, I want to emphasize that How To Have a Smarter Baby is by far the best book on the market for would-be parents and I would have no hesitation in recommending it as such.

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