Imaging brain oxygenation is crucial for preventing brain lesions in preterm infants. Our aim is to build and validate a near-infrared optical tomography (NIROT) sensor for the head of neonates. This sensor, combined with an optoacoustic device, will enable quantitative monitoring of the structural and functional information of the brain. Since the head of preterm infants is small and fragile great care must be taken to produce a comfortable and compact device in which a sufficient number of light sources and detectors can be implemented. Here we demonstrate our first prototype. Heterogeneous silicone phantoms were produced to validate the prototype's data acquisition, data processing, and image reconstruction. Reconstructed optical properties agree well with the target values. The mechanical performance of the new NIROT sensor prototype confirms its suitability for the clinical application.