Sweet Solutions to Reduce Procedural Pain in Neonates: A Meta-analysis

Pediatrics. 2017 Jan;139(1):e20160955. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-0955. Epub 2016 Dec 16.


Context: Abundant evidence of sweet taste analgesia in neonates exists, yet placebo-controlled trials continue to be conducted.

Objective: To review all trials evaluating sweet solutions for analgesia in neonates and to conduct cumulative meta-analyses (CMAs) on behavioral pain outcomes.

Data sources: (1) Data from 2 systematic reviews of sweet solutions for newborns; (2) searches ending 2015 of CINAHL, Medline, Embase, and psychINFO.

Data extraction and analysis: Two authors screened studies for inclusion, conducted risk-of-bias ratings, and extracted behavioral outcome data for CMAs. CMA was performed using random effects meta-analysis.

Results: One hundred and sixty-eight studies were included; 148 (88%) included placebo/no-treatment arms. CMA for crying time included 29 trials (1175 infants). From the fifth trial in 2002, there was a statistically significant reduction in mean cry time for sweet solutions compared with placebo (-27 seconds, 95% confidence interval [CI] -51 to -4). By the final trial, CMA was -23 seconds in favor of sweet solutions (95% CI -29 to -18). CMA for pain scores included 50 trials (3341 infants). Results were in favor of sweet solutions from the second trial (0.5, 95% CI -1 to -0.1). Final results showed a standardized mean difference of -0.9 (95% CI -1.1 to -0.7).

Limitations: We were unable to use or obtain data from many studies to include in the CMA.

Conclusions: Evidence of sweet taste analgesia in neonates has existed since the first published trials, yet placebo/no-treatment, controlled trials have continued to be conducted. Future neonatal pain studies need to select more ethically responsible control groups.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Analgesia / methods*
  • Crying
  • Glucose Solution, Hypertonic
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Solutions
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Taste*


  • Glucose Solution, Hypertonic
  • Solutions
  • Sucrose