Babies aged between one month and a year cry less while having injections if they are breastfed at the same time, a study has concluded.
Previous research has shown that breastfeeding newborn babies having injections can reduce the pain they experience.
This is due to the comfort provided through the skin-to-skin contact, warmth, sound and smell of the mother, and possible opiates in the breast milk, research shows.
A study published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews has now found that similar effects can be seen in babies beyond the neonatal period.
“This strategy has universal applicability for breastfeeding mothers, as it requires no additional cost, no special equipment, and no special preparation or storage”
Cochrane review of breastfeeding for procedural pain
Infants who were breastfed during vaccinations cried less than those who were cuddled or massaged, were given water, expressed breast milk or formula, sweet-tasting solutions, topical anaesthetic, or who received no treatment for their pain.
However, breastfeeding did not consistently reduce physiological changes such as the babies’ heart rates, the researchers found.
On average, breastfed babies cried for 38 seconds less than babies who were not breastfed, indicating pain was reduced.
“This strategy has universal applicability for breastfeeding mothers, as it requires no additional cost, no special equipment, and no special preparation or storage,” said the study, called Breastfeeding for procedural pain in infants beyond the neonatal period.
The research was based on 10 studies in existing medical literature that considered whether breastfeeding reduced pain during vaccinations, covering 1,066 infants in total.
The procedures included, but were not limited to subcutaneous or intramuscular injection, venipuncture, intravenous line insertion, heel lance, and finger lance.