Analgesic effect of breast feeding in term neonates: randomised controlled trial

BMJ. 2003 Jan 4;326(7379):13. doi: 10.1136/bmj.326.7379.13.


Objectives: To investigate whether breast feeding is effective for pain relief during venepuncture in term neonates and compare any effect with that of oral glucose combined with a pacifier.

Design: Randomised controlled trial.

Participants: 180 term newborn infants undergoing venepuncture; 45 in each group.

Interventions: During venepuncture infants were either breast fed (group 1), held in their mother's arms without breast feeding (group 2), given 1 ml of sterile water as placebo (group 3), or given 1 ml of 30% glucose followed by pacifier (group 4). Video recordings of the procedure were assessed by two observers blinded to the purpose of the study.

Main outcome measures: Pain related behaviours evaluated with two acute pain rating scales: the Douleur Aiguë Nouveau-né scale (range 0 to 10) and the premature infant pain profile scale (range 0 to 18).

Results: Median pain scores (interquartile range) for breast feeding, held in mother's arms, placebo, and 30% glucose plus pacifier groups were 1 (0-3), 10 (8.5-10), 10 (7.5-10), and 3 (0-5) with the Douleur Aiguë Nouveau-né scale and 4.5 (2.25-8), 13 (10.5-15), 12 (9-13), and 4 (1-6) with the premature infant pain profile scale. Analysis of variance showed significantly different median pain scores (P<0.0001) among the groups. There were significant reductions in both scores for the breast feeding and glucose plus pacifier groups compared with the other two groups (P<0.0001, two tailed Mann-Whitney U tests between groups). The difference in Douleur Aiguë Nouveau-né scores between breast feeding and glucose plus pacifier groups was not significant (P=0.16).

Conclusions: Breast feeding effectively reduces response to pain during minor invasive procedure in term neonates.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia / methods*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Glucose / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Pacifiers
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Phlebotomy / adverse effects*


  • Glucose