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Keywords:

  • infant;
  • sucking;
  • contact pressure;
  • artificial nipple;
  • tongue movement

Abstract

To clarify the motor function of the infant tongue during sucking, we developed an artificial nipple that contained multiple small built-in force sensors integrated with a PC-based system which is capable of measuring tongue–artificial nipple contact pressures in real time. The force sensor is a cantilever structure with a small, thin stainless steel beam where an all-purpose foil strain gauge is attached to the surface of the beam. An artificial nipple made of an elastomer containing these sensors is connected through an amplifier and an A/D converter to a PC via a USB port. Using this system, measurements were taken in three infants whose oral feeding was well established and in one infant of low birth weight. The results from each force sensor showed a pressure waveform of a nearly simple harmonic motion that indicated a peristalsis-like movement of the tongue; the sucking frequency was found to be about two times per second. In addition, in the low-birth-weight infant, the pressure changed as the infant grew. © 2012 Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.