How Do You Handle a Baby Having a Wail of a Time? Try Sloshy the Bear
There is a logical reason why the electronic lullaby works so well. The muffled sound emitted by the teddy is the recorded gush of blood circulating through the mother's pelvic arteries. At the time of birth, a baby has been capable of hearing for about four months—and has grown accustomed to and comforted by that gentle whoosh. The familiar intrauterine sound invariably soothes a baby for the first 90 days after its birth.
This phenomenon was first explored by a Japanese doctor, and news of it reached the U.S. in 1975. The story intrigued Bob Bissett, 55, a divorced building contractor, and Marie Shields, 51, who worked for a rival construction firm. The pair had previously collaborated on a culinary measuring dispenser and were angling for a new project.
The first stop for Bissett and Shields was the office of an old Fort Lauderdale friend, obstetrician Robert Eller, 63. "They said, 'Can you record the sounds of the womb?' " he recalls. "I had a patient due to deliver in a week and she agreed to help. When the birth got close, I inserted a miniature microphone near the ear of the fetus. We recorded the sounds for half an hour before labor began."
A month later Eller and Co. tested the recording at Fort Lauderdale's Holy Cross Hospital. The nursery was in an uproar, but as soon as the recording started, 18 screaming infants immediately quieted down. Even a few nurses were seen nodding off (though the sounds are theoretically not supposed to work on anyone older than three months).
The next step was bringing in a North Miami electronics expert, Barry Greenberg, to develop a tiny circuit, about a quarter of an inch in diameter, which Motorola Inc. manufactured. The whole contraption was tucked inside an old-fashioned teddy—and mass-produced.
So far the inventors have sold about 1,500 bears at $39.95 each. An alternate clip-on model, to attach to the side of a crib or bassinette, is on the drawing board. The next target market is the airlines: They could stock up on the bears as a pacifier for infant travelers. Hence, aloft or on the ground, the answer to inconsolable babies seems to be: Back to the womb.