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International Journal of Pediatrics
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 848596, 5 pages
Research Article

Prenatal Mouth Movements: Can We Identify Co-Ordinated Fetal Mouth and LIP Actions Necessary for Feeding?

1Department of Psychology, University of Durham, South Road, Durham DH1 2NR, UK
2Developmental Ethology and Cognitive Psychology Group, Center for Smell, Taste, and Food Science, CNRS (UMR 6265), Université de Bourgogne, 21078 Dijon Cedex, France
3The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough TS4 3BW, UK

Received 27 March 2012; Accepted 23 May 2012

Academic Editor: Katsumi Mizuno

Copyright © 2012 Nadja Reissland et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Observations of prenatal movement patterns of mouth and lips essential for feeding could have the potential for an assessment of the readiness to feed after birth. Although there is some research on sucking per se, we know very little about prenatal preparatory movements for sucking, namely, the ability to co-ordinate opening the mouth widely and then pursing the lips as if around a teat or nipple in utero. The purpose of the present study was to test two hypotheses using an adapted version of the Facial Action Coding Scheme: first that mouth stretch (AU 27) will be followed by lip pucker (AU 18), and second that these coordinated movement patterns will increase as a function of gestational age. Fifteen healthy fetuses were scanned four times between 24 and 36 weeks gestation using 4D ultrasound visualization. Results showed a decreased number of mouth stretches with increasing fetal age. Contrary to our expectations, we did not find an increase in movement patterns of mouth stretch followed by lip pucker in preparation for feeding ex utero. The results are discussed in terms of sensory triggers in utero required to elicit preparatory movements for feeding ex utero.