72 infants delivered normally were observed for 2 h after birth. In the separation group (n = 34), the infant was placed on the mother's abdomen immediately after birth but removed after about 20 min for measuring and dressing. In the contact group (n = 38) contact between mother and infant was uninterrupted for at least 1 h. After about 20 min the infants began to make crawling movements towards the breast; the rooting reflex soon came into play, and at an average of 50 min after birth most of the infants were sucking at the breast. More infants in the contact group than in the separation group showed the correct sucking technique (24/38 vs 7/34). 40 (56%) of the 72 mothers had received pethidine during labour; the infants were also sedated and most of them (25/40) did not suck at all. It is suggested that contact between mother and infant should be uninterrupted during the first hour after birth or until the first breast-feed has been accomplished, and that use of drugs such as pethidine should be restricted.