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According to a study in the November, 2011 issue of PAIN, researchers report that breastfeeding during minor procedures mitigated pain in premature babies who could breastfeed. In normal term-born babies, breastfeeding during painful procedures has been shown to reduce pain response by 80-90% and has no side effects, but only recently has been studied in premature babies.


When I took my babies in for procedures such as immunization, I used infant massage as a way to mitigate the scariness and pain of the procedure, and it was well received and helped immensely. I would massage the area to be “pricked” for several minutes, increasing blood flow to that area, then move the massage to an all-over regular massage, which would make my baby feel calm and relaxed. Then I would hold him, and continue rubbing whatever area I could (explaining my plan to the doctor) while the procedure was done. My baby would have very little reaction to the procedure, except to want to be nursed afterward.


I hope at some point this could be a subject for researching; not all mothers breastfeed their babies, especially after six months. But infant massage can go on for a year or more. The researchers that conducted this study found that babies who could breastfeed during the procedure had significantly lower behavioral pain scores. Time taken for the procedure was significantly shorter, making blood collection more efficient.


“Finding creative ways to apply breastfeeding for pain mitigation in premature infants is important, because recent research suggests that sweetening agents used to reduce minor procedural pain may act as sedatives rather than analgesics, and they may have negative effects on development,” says Professor Holsti. “Our findings support further research on the effects of breastfeeding over repeated events to assess both the short- and long-term benefits of the treatment.”

Infant massage, as well, should be researched as a way to reduce minor procedural pain.


By Vimala McClure


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