Neonatal alcohol exposure alters suckling behavior in neonatal rat pups

Susan Barron, Sandra J. Kelly, Edward P. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Prenatal alcohol exposure has been associated with a variety of suckling deficits in both humans and animals. In this study, the effect of neonatal alcohol exposure on suckling performance was examined in 15-day-old rat pups. Neonatal alcohol exposure has been used as a model to study the effects of alcohol exposure during a period equivalent to the human third trimester with respect to brain growth. Subjects were Long-Evans rats which had been artificially reared (AR) and fed through gastrostomy tubes from postnatal day (PN) 4-PN 12. The AR groups included two groups given ethanol doses of 6 g/kg/day or 4 g/kg/day and an isocaloric maltose-dextrin control group. A suckled control group raised by their natural mothers was also included to control for artificial rearing. Fifteen-day-old pups were individually placed with an anesthetized dam for a 1-h videotaped test session. Pups in the 6 g/kg alcohol group took longer to attach to the nipple and spent less time suckling than pups from all other treatment groups. Nipple-shifting behavior was disrupted in all artificially reared groups, but it was most severely affected in the 6 g/kg group. These findings suggest that neonatal alcohol exposure interferes with suckling performance and these altered behaviors may contribute to the postnatal growth deficits that have been reported following alcohol exposure in utero.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-427
Number of pages5
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1991

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported, in part, by grants AA06902, AA00077 and AA05236 from NIAAA. The authors would like to thank Susan Irten-kauf and Keith Irtenkauf for their assistance in data collection.


  • Fetal alcohol effects
  • Neonatal alcohol exposure
  • Suckling deficits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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