| Breastfeeding May Reduce Infant Pain
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Breastfeeding can help minimize
the pain an infant suffers while getting a blood sample drawn
or undergoing other minor medical procedures, new study findings
"Since breastfeeding probably constitutes
the most potent pleasant stimulation a newborn can experience,
we hypothesized that breastfeeding could have analgesic properties,"
said study author Dr. Ricardo Carbajal, a pediatrician at Poissy-Saint
Germain Hospital in France. "Our study shows that breastfeeding
during a painful procedure effectively reduces pain in newborn
It's not clear precisely how breastfeeding
helps. "The different components of breastfeeding such as touch,
temperature, odor or milk taste may all play a role," Carbajal
told Reuters Health. "We believe that natural protective mechanisms
are activated by breastfeeding to soothe pain in newborns."
Sixteen of 44 babies who were breastfed
during vein puncture on the back of the hand to draw blood showed
no indication that the procedure had even occurred, according
to findings published in the January 4th issue of the British
Results of the study, which involved
a total of 180 newborns divided into four groups, also revealed
that placing infants on a table, feeding them a sugary solution
and then giving them a pacifier helped reduce levels of pain during
the procedure. This was not surprising because previous research
had indicated that sweet solutions and pacifiers helped minimize
pain, Carbajal noted.
While pain scores in the new study
tended to be slightly lower for the breastfeeding group than for
the group that got the sugary solution and a pacifier, the difference
was not statistically significant.
Compared with babies in a placebo
group who were placed on a table and given water but not a pacifier
during the procedure, no reductions in pain were seen among infants
who were held in their mothers' arms but not breastfed.
Pain levels were assessed by infants'
facial expressions, crying, arm and leg movements, heart rate
and other factors.
Carbajal said finding ways to reduce
infant pain during minor medical procedures like drawing blood
is important because pain medication is rarely used in these tiny
patients due to concerns about effectiveness and side effects.
It is reasonable to suggest that
breastfeeding may also help reduce pain from routine baby vaccinations,
though more studies in this area are needed, Carbajal added.
Vein punctures were performed on
the infants for a variety of reasons, including tests for thyroid
problems, sickle cell disease and blood typing.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal
Reference Source 89