Newborns Do Feel Pain

When you get a shot, chances are you know what to expect, close your eyes and prepare for the needle stick. Believe it or not, newborns do the same thing!
Jennifer Newton Reents

Newborns who experience repeated painful procedures in the first days of life experience more intense pain and learn to anticipate it, a new study reveals. "Many newborn infants undergo painful, invasive procedures after delivery for medical reasons, and it is important for us to understand how they react to pain and look at ways to decrease it," says Dr. Anna Taddio, a researcher at The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada.

The study compared infants who received repeated painful procedures (heel lances) in their first 24 to 36 hours with a control group of infants. The heel lances were necessary to monitor the infants' blood sugar levels, as they were born to mothers with diabetes.

The babies who had been poked repeatedly with the heel lances actually had an increased pain response -- made facial grimaces or cried -- before they were poked and when the nurse wiped their heels with alcohol in preparation for the procedure, compared with infants who had not been exposed to the repeated painful procedures.

This response suggests that they learned to anticipate pain, says the author of the study. They also evidenced a bigger response to the heel lance itself.

The best way to help your infant through any necessary jabs is simple: Hold him close and let him know you're right there with him!


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