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Effect of suckling on the peripheral sensitivity of full-term newborn infants
  1. H M Abdulkader1,
  2. Y Freer1,
  3. S M Fleetwood-Walker2,
  4. N McIntosh1
  1. 1Department of Child Life and Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2Centre of Neurosciences Research, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor N McIntosh
    Department of Child Life and Health, University of Edinburgh, 20 Sylvan Place, Edinburgh EH9 1UW, UK; neil.mcintosh{at}


Background: Sucking may reduce the manifestations of pain in newborn infants.

Objective: To examine the effect of suckling on the threshold for peripheral somatosensory responses.

Subjects and methods: Graded Von Frey filaments were applied to the heel to initiate peripheral somatosensory responses (withdrawal reflex and gross body movements) in term infants.

Results: Dummy sucking increases the somatosensory threshold, but breast feeding had a more marked effect, increasing the threshold of the flexion withdrawal reflex (p⩽0.002) and the threshold for gross body movements (p⩽0.002).

Conclusion: Peripheral sensitivity of newborn infants is considerably reduced during sucking, particularly at the breast.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.