Intrapartum synthetic oxytocin reduce the expression of primitive reflexes associated with breastfeeding

Breastfeed Med. 2015 May;10(4):209-13. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2014.0156. Epub 2015 Mar 18.


Aim: Several synthetic peptide manipulations during the time surrounding birth can alter the specific neurohormonal status in the newborn brain. This study is aimed at assessing whether intrapartum oxytocin administration has any effect on primitive neonatal reflexes and determining whether such an effect is dose-dependent.

Materials and methods: A cohort prospective study was conducted at a tertiary hospital. Mother-infant dyads who received intrapartum oxytocin (n=53) were compared with mother-infant dyads who did not receive intrapartum oxytocin (n=45). Primitive neonatal reflexes (endogenous, antigravity, motor, and rhythmic reflexes) were quantified by analyzing videotaped breastfeeding sessions in a biological nurturing position. Two observers blind to the group assignment and the oxytocin dose analyzed the videotapes and assesed the newborn's state of consciousness according to the Brazelton scale.

Results: The release of all rhythmic reflexes (p=0.01), the antigravity reflex (p=0.04), and total primitive neonatal reflexes (p=0.02) in the group exposed to oxytocin was lower than in the group not exposed to oxytocin. No correlations were observed between the dose of oxytocin administered and the percentage of primitive neonatal reflexes released (r=0.03; p=0.82).

Conclusions: Intrapartum oxytocin administration might inhibit the expression of several primitive neonatal reflexes associated with breastfeeding. This correlation does not seem to be dose-dependent.

Trial registration: NCT01891201.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding* / psychology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Behavior / drug effects*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Kangaroo-Mother Care Method / methods*
  • Kangaroo-Mother Care Method / psychology
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage*
  • Oxytocin / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sucking Behavior / drug effects*
  • Sucking Behavior / physiology
  • Video Recording


  • Oxytocin

Associated data