Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Maureen W. Groer, Ph.D., RN, FAAN

Co-Major Professor

Denise Maguire, Ph.D., RN, CNL

Committee Member

Melissa M. Shelton, Ph.D., RN, CNE

Committee Member

Lance Wyble, M.D., MPH


breastfeeding, galactokinesis, skin to skin, oxytocin


This dissertation research explored mechanisms of human milk (HM) expulsion by describing the effects of skin to skin contact (SSC) on maternal basal oxytocin (OT) secretion among 20 premature mothers with hospitalized premature infants. This one-group, repeated measures design consisted of: 1) daily SSC with covariant data via self-report diary and 2) maternal salivary OT with and without SSC at 4 time points were collected over a 7 day time frame. Results indicate that mean levels of basal OT increase over time (M 234 pg/ml, SD 108 pg/ml time point 1; M 257 pg/ml, SD 125 pg/ml time point 3). Through multilevel model data analysis basal OT was found to have a meaningful amount of dependence on SSC frequency (t(16) = 6.389, p = < 0.001) and SSC duration (t(17) = 6.867, p = < 0.001) with coefficient estimates that indicate that basal OT exposed to 75-85 minutes of SSC per day are 92 pg/ml higher. These findings provide preliminary data that suggest that lactating mothers with premature infants sustain positive effects of SSC that increase basal OT secretion over time.