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The behavioral mechanisms underlying antipsychotic-induced maternal behavior deficits were examined in the present study. Different groups of postpartum rats were treated with haloperidol (0.1 mg/kg), clozapine (10.0 mg/kg), chlordiazepoxide (5.0 mg/kg, an anxiolytic) or vehicle (0.9% saline) on Days 4 and 6 postpartum and their maternal behaviors were tested under either pup-separation (e.g. pups were removed from their mothers for 4 h before testing) or no-pup-separation condition. Maternal behavior and drug-induced sedation were further tested for 3 days from Day 8 to 12 postpartum. Results show that pup-separation, which putatively increases maternal motivation, did significantly shorten clozapine-elongated pup approach latency, increase pup licking and nursing but fail to reverse the deficits in pup retrieval and nest building in the lactating rats treated with haloperidol and clozapine. Repeated haloperidol treatment produced a progressively enhanced disruption on pup retrieval and nest building and an attenuated sedation. In contrast, clozapine showed a progressively diminished disruption on pup retrieval and a concomitantly diminished sedative effect. Based on these findings, we suggest that antipsychotic drugs disrupt active maternal responses at least in part by suppressing maternal motivation, and drug-induced sedation also contributes to this disruptive effect, especially with clozapine.