Studies On Managing Newborn Pain

Your instinct is to shield your bundle of joy from suffering, yet vaccinations, tests and circumcisions are routine. But, you may be happy to hear that a new study has found that sugar water may be successful in giving your newborn respite from aches and pains. Discover the study results on how and when sugar water should be used for infant pain relief.

Crying baby

Sugar water study results

Published by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in March, two studies found that sugar water was an effective method for pain relief in preemies during heel lance procedures with an automated piercing device, a procedure newborns undergo to get blood samples. Although specifically tested on preemies born between 32- and 37-weeks gestation, it would seem that the effects for newborns born at any gestational age would be equally beneficial.

One study found that sugar water seems to have similar pain-dulling results for infants as breast milk when administered prior to the medical procedure, while another study finds that the "oral sucrose" blocked pain for preemies even better. The results were based on a Premature Infant Pain Profile score which measured facial grimacing, blood oxygen levels and heart rate. But researchers emphasize that it doesn't mean the sweet stuff is better than breast milk.

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Hospital use of sugar water for newborn pain relief

Currently, guidelines advocate the use of sugar water or breast milk for newborns during minor medical tests, just as the study shows with heel blood withdrawal. However, pediatricians have been recommending the use of sugar water or breast milk just prior to or immediately after immunizations as pain relief for years. And, in addition to the use of anesthesia, KidsHealth.org reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the use of pain relief measures during circumcision, such as a pacifier dipped in sugar water in combination with anesthesia of some kind. However, leaving dosing of pharmaceutical-grade sugar water is best left to your nurse or doctor in the hospital.

Sugar water use for infant pain relief at home

Although your pediatrician may use sugar water in a hospital setting when medical procedures are proven to be painful, doctors disapprove of using the sweet sucrose water at home. "Babies under 6 months of age should only drink breast milk or formula and should never take water or sugar water to hydrate," advises Dr. Charles Shubin, director of pediatrics, Mercy Medical Center. "It can displace the nutrition infants should be getting as well as fill their small stomachs." In cases where you feel your bundle of joy is feeling discomfort or pain, offering a combination of something to suck on, breast milk, formula, or skin-to-skin contact may give your newborn the comfort she needs.

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Although sugar water and breast milk are effective ways to relieve pain in newborns, researchers continue to search for the best way to ease newborn pain, especially for babies born prematurely who endure a higher number of medical tests. However, whether it is sugar water for infant pain relief or other pain-reducing techniques, it is up to you as your baby's biggest advocate to speak up and ask your doctor what you can do to comfort your bundle of joy during the first precious weeks of her life.

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Tags: premature baby pain


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If the doctors use sugar water while they are doing my sons circumcision will that open his tummy faster than my body is producing breast milk? If so can that make it difficult to catch up with him.