Fetal Experience With Milk or an Artificial Nipple Alters Appetitive and Aversive Responses to Perioral Cutaneous Stimuli

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Fetal rats exhibit oral grasping of an artificial nipple. The authors examined interactive effects of sensory stimuli normally encountered in the suckling environment on subsequent responses to the nipple. Embryonic Day 20 rat fetuses received an infusion of milk, lemon, or saline through a hollow artificial nipple or an intraoral cannula (producing no nipple stimulation). One minute after sensory pretreatment, behavioral responses of fetuses to an artificial nipple were recorded on videotape for frame-by-frame analysis. Preexposure to the artificial nipple decreased the number of oral grasps and facial wipes directed toward the artificial nipple but increased the duration of grasp responses. Milk uniformly reduced fetal responsiveness to the nipple. Furthermore, the artificial nipple enhanced fetal responses to perioral cutaneous stimulation, whereas milk suppressed perioral responsiveness. These data suggest that the perinatal rat's 1st experience with milk or the nipple can alter subsequent responses to suckling stimuli.

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