The Smart Bottle: Microprocessor Assisted Transition to Oral Feeding
Inventors: Eugene Goldfield
Categories: Medical Device
Over 400,000 infants in the U.S. are born preterm each year. Many of these preemies have difficulty feeding due to their premature development. Studies have shown that these babies have trouble coordinating their breathing as they suck and swallow milk, and will sometimes aspirate milk during feeding. In order to feed without aspirating, these babies suppress their breathing for extended periods. One solution is to provide infants with constant restricted milk flow. However, such a strategy does not help infants to learn on their own to regulate sucking and swallowing so that it does not interfere with their breathing.
To address this problem, Dr. Eugene Goldfield, a developmental psychologist, has developed a device that monitors the sucking and breathing of newborns and “teaches” the appropriate sucking pattern depending upon the infants breathing pattern. This “Smart Bottle” uses a computer controller to detect respiratory patterns from information it receives from a nasal air flow sensor and compares that with information on sucking that comes from a sensor in the nipple. When an inspiration exceeds a given threshold, the computer sends a signal to a pump to provide milk flow at the level demanded by the infant. However, if the inspiration does not exceed the threshold, milk flow is reduced until breathing is returned to the threshold. This decision by the controller to pump milk is made ten times each second.
To evaluate the safety of the decision rules, virtual tests were carried out as well as preliminary “dry” test with a healthy term infant demonstrating the device working as intended.
The Smart Bottle is being developed to help NICUs deliver care to preterm infants who have trouble feeding.
Three benefits of the Smart Bottle are (i) diagnosis, obtaining data on breathing and sucking patterns during feeding, (ii) efficiency, shorter infant NICU stays and (iii) freed up nurse time. Children’s Hospital market research demonstrates present demand for the diagnostic benefit of Smart Bottle data, for which the prototype is market ready.