Breastfeeding is analgesic in healthy newborns

Pediatrics. 2002 Apr;109(4):590-3. doi: 10.1542/peds.109.4.590.


Context: This study identifies a behavioral and nonpharmacologic means of preventing newborn pain.

Objective: To determine whether breastfeeding is analgesic in newborn infants undergoing heel lance-a routine, painful, hospital procedure.

Design: A prospective, randomized, controlled trial.

Setting: Hospital maternity services at Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, and Beverly Hospital, Beverly, Massachusetts.

Participants: A random sample of 30 full-term, breastfed infants.

Interventions: Infants in the intervention group were held and breastfed by their mothers during heel lance and blood collection procedures for the Newborn Screening Program Blood Test. Infants in the control group experienced the same blood test while receiving the standard hospital care of being swaddled in their bassinets.

Outcomes measures: Crying, grimacing, and heart rate differences were analyzed between the breastfeeding and the control infants before, during, and after blood collection.

Results: Crying and grimacing were reduced by 91% and 84%, respectively, from control infant levels during the blood collection. Heart rate was also substantially reduced by breastfeeding.

Conclusions: Breastfeeding is a potent analgesic intervention in newborns during a standard blood collection.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Specimen Collection / adverse effects
  • Blood Specimen Collection / methods
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Crying / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Heel
  • Humans
  • Infant Behavior*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Punctures / adverse effects