Mother and newborn baby: mutual regulation of physiology and behavior--a selective review

Dev Psychobiol. 2005 Nov;47(3):217-29. doi: 10.1002/dev.20094.


This article reviews 30 years of work demonstrating that interactions between mother and newborn infant in the period just after birth influence the physiology and behavior of both. Close body contact of the infant with his/her mother helps regulate the newborn's temperature, energy conservation, acid-base balance, adjustment of respiration, crying, and nursing behaviors. Similarly, the baby may regulate--i.e., increase--the mother's attention to his/her needs, the initiation and maintenance of breastfeeding, and the efficiency of her energy economy through vagus activation and a surge of gastrointestinal tract hormone release resulting in better exploitation of ingested calories. The effects of some of these changes can be detected months later. Parallels to animal research and possible mechanisms are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / innervation
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Infant Behavior / physiology*
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Milk Ejection / physiology
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Oxytocin / physiology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology


  • Oxytocin