Breastfeeding For Relieving Procedural Pain In Infants

Breastfeeding For Relieving Procedural Pain In Infants

Did you know? Babies routinely experience pain associated with the numerous minor routine procedures they undergo in the first weeks and months of life. What’s the most effective way to make procedures such as venipuncture or heel lance less painful and traumatic?


Growing scientific evidence points to the efficacy of natural, non-pharmacological interventions in reducing infants’ pain, with breastfeeding being the most effective. Other methods include swaddling, skin-to-skin, pacifier, and oral sucrose. Compared to these other soothing methods, breastfeeding initiated before, and continued through these painful procedures has been shown to have a greater analgesic effect, as evidenced by:

  ♥ reduced heart rate increase

  ♥ reduced proportion of crying time

  ♥ reduced duration of first cry and total crying time

Sadly, pain reduction therapies are often underused for routine procedures, and can have detrimental effects including:

  ⚠️greater pain sensitivity later in childhood

  ⚠️disturbance of mother-infant bonding

  ⚠️distress for new parents


When direct nursing is not possible, the individual components of breastfeeding (sucking, sweet taste, and warm contact) may be used separately or in combination. This may be especially useful for preterm infants who may be medically compromised or cannot effectively suck or swallow.


Establish breastfeeding before, and continue during and after the painful procedure while holding baby close to your body for maximal benefit. Watch the video to see the technique in action! 

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American Academy of Pediatrics: AAP Policy Statement

American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine: ABM Clinical Protocol #23: Nonpharmacological Management of Procedure-Related Pain in the Breastfeeding Infant

Gray L, Miller LW, Phillip BL, Blass EM. Breastfeeding is analgesic in healthy newborns.Pediatrics.2002;109 :590– 593 Abstract/FREE Full TextGoogle Scholar

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