Postpartum Maternal Oxytocin Release by Newborn: Effects of Infant Hand Massage and Suckling




Matthiesen, A. F. Ransjo-Arvidson, A. B., Nissen, E., Unvas-Moberg K. Birth 29: 13-19, 2001


     Mother and infant interaction immediately after birth never fails to create a sense of awe and wonder about the marvels of breastfeeding. And our admiration goes out to this Swedish team for capturing and describing these emotion-filled moments.


    Ten mothers and babies,  Vaginally birthed and not exposed to maternal  analgesics were video recorded from birth until the first breastfeed. Each of the infantís positions, hand, finger and tongue movements were assessed every 30 seconds. Blood samples were  taken from the other every 15 minutes to determine oxytocin levels.


    The researchers noted that the newborn used her hand to explore and stimulate her motherís breasts in preparation for the first breastfeed. They identified a coordinated pattern of infant hand and suckling movements. When the infant suckled, the hand motions ceased and started up again during a suckling pause. The infantís massagelike hand movements were followed by an increase in the motherís oxytocin levels.


    In conclusion, the Swedish findings show that newborns use their hands as well as their mouths to stimulate maternal oxytocin release and this may have significance for uterine contractions, milk production and mother-infant interaction.



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