Painful procedure for your baby? Breastfeeding to the rescue!

Painful procedure for your baby? Breastfeeding to the rescue!

Painful procedures – from newborn heel sticks to vaccines – are an unfortunate, but common experience for babies. Fortunately, nursing moms have a secret weapon against pain: breastfeeding.

As a recent comprehensive analysis of ten studies concluded, breastfeeding reduces pain in babies during vaccinations. The review found that babies cried an average of 38 seconds less when breastfeeding during a vaccination, and that pain scores were significantly lower. They noted that breastfeeding distracts, comforts, and soothes infants, and suggested that endorphins in breastmilk may also help to reduce pain.

This analysis adds to a number of other evidence-based recommendations that breastfeeding be used for pain relief during these procedures, including:

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2005 breastfeeding policy in which they write that: “Breastfeeding during a painful procedure such as a heel-stick for newborn screening provides analgesia to infants.”

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine's protocol on pain relief, “Non-Pharmacologic Management of Procedure-Related Pain in the Breastfeeding Infant,” that recommends that “when available, breastfeeding should be the first choice to alleviate procedural pain in neonates undergoing a single painful procedure, such as venipuncture or heel lance.” They also recommend skin-to-skin contact during these procedures.

The World Health Organization’s recommendation  that babies be breastfed during or shortly before vaccinations.

A comprehensive list of the research on breastfeeding for painful procedures on infants is available at And the next time your baby needs a vaccination or other procedure, remember to enlist your secret weapon against pain!

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