The Technology behind a Milk Bottle – Not as simple as it appears


At first glance, it looks simple and user-friendly, and described as “a mix of functionality and beauty”. This is an expression that is often used for stationery and furniture, but even in the industry of baby goods it fit perfectly to describe the Pigeon’s breastfeeding bottle.I visited the Pigeon Central Research Institute in the city of Tsukubamirai with the intent of understanding the design and functionality of the company’s feeding bottle. We interviewed Satoru Saito of the development department of Pigeon.

This article should not only interest parents who have children, but also for those who are interested in manufacturing and design in general.

When a baby is born, most families buy a baby bottle. There are many drug stores and baby shops that sell a variety of bottles, which can make choosing the right bottle confusing.Pigeon’s bottle is different. The infant experiences the authentic simulation of breastfeeding because of the different sized teats that comes with the bottle, used for different ages (SS, S, M, L, LL)

Satoru Saito talking about breastfeeding with the Pigeon bottle

 

SS is for a newborn baby that is under a month old, which will just be learning how to suckle. The teat is made of a very soft silicone that makes the milk flow easily. Even though the silicone is soft, it is strong and elastic and doesn’t tear if the baby chews on it. The LL size is for children who are over 9 months of age.“The five teats are designed to be optimum for each age,” says Mr Saito.

Furthermore, bottles have been changing in recent years. Glass based and plastic based bottles are common. You can choose bottles of various sizes according to age and usability. For example, a popular baby bottle is My Precious that is in the photo below on the left.

It can hold 80 ml and is suitable for a baby that is under a month old. The cute illustrations in the bottles with bears and hedgehogs makes the bottle that much more adorable.

In addition to other materials, polyphenylsulfone (PPSU) plastic is used to make bottles which are highly heat resistant. The plastic baby bottles are light and are hard to break. Although plastic is good, glass bottles are believed to be superior in terms of cleanliness. Milk can, however, still be boiled and poured into the plastic bottle, a testament to the constantly evolving functionality of bottles.It was believed that it was enough that the teat of the milk bottle had a tip at the end. However, Pigeon wanted to make something better for mum and baby.

There are three principles that govern breastfeeding: “Adsorption“, “Sucking“ and “Swallowing“. Adsorption means the relative ease of adhering to the surface. The process of sucking involves pushing the teat to the upper jaw and squeezing the milk, and swallowing is self explanatory.

If even one process is lacking, the baby can not drink the breast milk. This is commonly known as the “Three Principles of Breastfeeding”. Pigeon has also advocated this process. To encourage this process, the breastfeeding teat was developed.

Pigeon’s 3 Principles of Breastfeeding.

So what is amazing about this teat? The teats all look similar in shape at first glance, but the amount of milk that comes out changes depending on the age of the baby. Also, as there is constant change in the movement of the tongue and the mouth, the teat adjusts by changing shape and elasticity.The shape of the hole where the milk comes from differs according to the sizes. In SS and S, the size of the teat is suitable for newborn babies. On the other hand, teats of M, L, and LL sizes are three-cut with notches in a Y shape. This is done because, as the baby keeps growing, it doesn’t only drink, but starts playing with the bottle. The bottle will be swinging around and the milk will spill with a round hole but if it is a Y cut, then the milk won’t come out, unless it’s sucked on properly.

The teats are soft for the smaller sizes, but as the baby grows, teeth is formed and for the L and LL sizes, the silicone is hardened. The size of the hole is adjusted based on the age and size of the teat.

Actually there is a secret in the shape on the teat. When a baby drinks straight from the breast, people assume the baby just sucks on the teat but in reality, if you look closely, the baby pushes the teat with its tongue against the upper palate.For this reason, if the teat from the bottle breaks, then it causes discomfort to the baby. The Pigeon bottles are designed to fit softly in the baby’s mouth.

“The SS size is produced for babies that are under one month old. The SS size can be used only during the first month. The baby’s sucking power is still weak, the silicone needs to have a special softness. Pigeon has collaborated with a silicone supplier to develop a special silicone for this purpose.

Silicone tears easily if it is too soft. It is difficult to make it soft while being durable at the same time. It’s easier to suck a soft teat when a baby is a newborn. Older babies require harder silicone because of teeth forming and also their playful nature,” says Mr Saito.

So how are breastfeeding teats produced? The answer is in the monitor room of the Pigeon Central Research Laboratory. Around 60 babies of various ages come here every year to participate in the company’s feeding research process.Mr. Saito uses ECHO to see the movement inside the body with ultrasound to see the movements of the tongue and the mouth to test their hypothesis.

Using ECHO tells you how the tongue moves in the mouth. You can test using hard or soft teats as well as narrow and wide teats. Also, in a lot of cases, parents don’t have to bring their babies to the lab. A teat is sent to their homes along with a questionnaire and they send the questionnaire back.

The SS size teat is called “Direct Attachment” in which the bottles are made of a special glass which is suitable for premature babies. It has the softness and a thickness of a ear lobe. It’s the most difficult teat to produce. Saito says “It’s the most exciting feel to see a newborn baby drink milk out of this teat on its own”. This is the first time I observed that medical devices are used for product verification.It’s hard to manufacture products for babies.

Shape and thickness, elasticity and softness vary depending on the type of baby bottle and the age of the baby

 

For small babies and babies in excess of 3000g, things will also change. However, at Pigeon, various size teats are prepared so as to correspond to all babies. It is produced by accumulation of many years of research.
Mr. Saito says, “The ultimate goal is to make a bottle that will give the same feeling as a mother’s bosom. It won’t look like a breast, but it will feel like one. This will take years to perfect.”In theory, it would be possible to make teats of feeding bottles from a mother’s skin cells but this still remains a theory. At present, Pigeon have tried hard to get the texture of the fake teat, to resemble the actual one.

It’s still not there yet, but the fact that Pigeon is thinking about this is commendable.

The baby puts the teat in the groove of the upper palate and pushes it with the tongue and drinks it. Pigeon has devised materials and functions so that the baby’s tongue fits well in this groove.

Mr. Saito said. “I am aiming for a mother’s teat experience, but I cannot go beyond a mother’s breastfeeding experience and cannot exceed it. The goal is to reproduce the mother’s breast feeding.”

Baby’s upper jaw model and teat

 

A newly born baby is not good at drinking. There are some mothers who cannot breastfeed their baby due to various circumstances. In that case, a breastfeeding bottle is a boon.In the market, there is no baby bottle that has come close to the experience and functions of the Pigeon baby bottle.

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