Neurobehavioral Functioning and Breastfeeding Behavior in the Newborn


  • Sharon Radzyminski

    Corresponding author
    1. Sharon Radzyminski, PhD, JD, RN, is an assistant professor for nursing and graduate program director in the School of Nursing at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH.
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Address for correspondence: Sharon Radzyminski, PhD, JD, RN, School of Nursing, Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Avenue RT 928, Cleveland, OH 44115. E-mail:


Objective: To determine whether central nervous system functioning has an effect on the normal, term infant's ability to breastfeed in the first day following birth.

Design: Breastfeeding behaviors and neurobehaviors were evaluated at birth and at 24 hrs of age in two groups of neonates. One group of neonates was born to mothers who received epidural analgesia during labor, and one group was born to mothers who received no pain medication. Breastfeeding behavior was evaluated using the Preterm Infant Breastfeeding Behavior Scale, and the infant's neurobehaviors were evaluated using the Neurologic and Adaptive Capacity Score.

Participants: Fifty-six breastfeeding mother-newborn dyads. All mothers were healthy multiparae who gave birth vaginally to normal, full-term, healthy newborns.

Main Outcome Measures: Newborns were observed for rooting, latch-on, sucking, swallowing, activity state, and neurobehavior.

Result: Analysis of the data indicated that the higher the infant scored in relation to neurobehavioral functioning, the higher the infant scored on breast-feeding behaviors.

Conclusion: When determining physiologically what is important for the infant to successfully latch on and feed, it appears that an intact and functioning central nervous system may be one of the crucial elements.