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painful
First Years Oct 2, 2020
2 Minutes

An easy way to take the sting out of a painful procedure

No one wants to see their child in pain. However, from the earliest days routine jabs and quick tests can see little ones exposed to potentially painful or uncomfortable situations. The good news is the latest research is showing there is something (as parents) we can do to help them process it better. 

Looking at how a little brain processes painful situations: 

New research published in the European Journal of Pain monitored new babies (under 100 days old) and assessed their brain responses to the very routine ‘heel prick’ test. This is a common test done on newborns to screen for disorders like Sickle Cell, Cystic Fibrosis and Thyroid conditions. All of which are important to catch early. The results were very interesting… 

Turns out, how we approach this as parents can alter the brain’s response: 

The study looked at three different scenarios. First was when the baby was held skin-skin wearing just a nappy/diaper and covered with a blanket on his/her parent. The second was a swaddled baby in an incubator or cot. The third scenario was a baby held clothing-clothing while the heel prick was done. 

The type of contact appears to matter for helping babies manage a painful procedure: 

The results were clear. Being held skin-skin reduced the magnitude of brain response to the painful procedure. These babies showed a lower spike in heart rate and lower response in terms of facial expression.

Against this – the biggest reaction came from those babies who were held clothing-clothing. It actually appeared to cause them process the pain through an entirely different neural pathway!

Interestingly, containment and swaddling were also effective: 

Babies who were swaddled in a cot or incubator also had lower brain responses to the painful procedure vs clothing on clothing. Good news for premature babies who unfortunately may not be able to be held skin-skin during all tests. 

Bottom line: a pretty easy way to reduce the sting of painful procedures:  

A simple way to make painful jabs a bit easier on a new baby? Go skin to skin wherever you possibly can. This research extends to all things brain development it appears. From how to handle your toddler who may be having a melt down as they learn to process emotions. Click here for more. To how we can help premature babies in the NICU. Click here for more. 

 

 

 

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

 

 

 

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