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R. C. Sutherland, E. S. Aizlewood, and J. B. Wakerley

Summary. The pattern of reflex milk ejection during suckling was investigated in anaesthetized Wistar rats at various stages of pregnancy, lactation and after weaning. Milk-ejection responses were measured using intramammary pressure recordings, and the amount of oxytocin released was estimated from log dose—response lines compiled from the mammary responses to exogenous oxytocin. The number of rats showing intramammary pressure responses to oxytocin increased on Day 22 of pregnancy (the day of parturition) and decreased at 8 days after weaning. The dose—response lines from pregnant animals were shallow, but steepened and shifted to the left during lactation and after weaning. Reflex milk-ejection responses during suckling were detectable in primigravid animals, indicating that birth of the litter and previous suckling experience are unnecessary for the immediate functioning of the reflex. Reflex milk-ejection responses improved during early lactation (such that the frequency and the amount of oxytocin released at each response were maximal at Day 10 of lactation), and subsequently declined in late lactation. Although the frequency of responses in animals 2 and 4 days after weaning was similar to that in late lactating animals, the amount of oxytocin released at each response had risen again to mid-lactation values. In animals undergoing a second pregnancy and lactation the pattern of change in the milk-ejection responses was similar to that of primiparous animals.