The purpose of this study was to determine whether the practice of early suckling, through an effect on maternal behaviour, would improve neonatal temperature control. One hundred and sixty mothers having daytime spontaneous deliveries of healthy babies at term were randomized into two groups. The treatment group were encouraged to put the baby to the breast immediately after delivery. In the control group, the baby was placed in a cot immediately after birth and breastfeeding occurred some time later at a time of the mother's choice. Observations of the mother's behaviour towards her baby and the baby's core body temperature were recorded at 2 and 4 hours after birth and at 8 a.m. the next day. The early suckling group mothers were observed breastfeeding their babies more often than those of the control group. Significantly more of the control babies had temperatures below 36.5 degrees C at 8 a.m. the next day. Women of either group who were breastfeeding immediately prior to temperature recording were significantly less likely to have a baby with a low body temperature. It is concluded that a policy of early suckling, when compared with one of delayed contact, appears to reduce the incidence of low body temperature in the neonate.