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Breastfeeding: The Perfect Infant Pain Reliever?

Study shows many babies oblivious to pain while suckling

FRIDAY, Jan. 3, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The sight of an infant screaming in pain is something not easily forgotten. That's why French researchers' discovery that breastfeeding may alleviate infant pain has attracted so much attention.

According to a study in tomorrow's British Medical Journal, breastfeeding during a painful medical procedure may not only reduce infant pain, but it also appears sometimes to make them entirely oblivious to the pain.

The conclusion was made after researchers from Armand Trousseau Childrens Hospital in Paris observed 180 healthy newborn infants who required a common procedure called venepuncture, in which a vein is pierced to withdraw blood.

During the often painful procedure, the infants were either breastfed, held in their mother's arms without being breastfed, given water as a placebo, or given a glucose solution followed by a pacifier.

Observers, unaware of the study's purpose, reported pain scores according to the children's responses. They found that among the 44 infants who were breastfed during the procedure, as many as 16 babies showed no indication at all that the venepuncture had even taken place.

Meanwhile, no reduction in pain response at all was seen among the babies who were held in their mother's arms but not breastfed.

Researchers say the findings indicate that breastfeeding may activate natural protective mechanisms that can serve as an important non-invasive pain reliever during medical procedures.

More information

Here's much more information on breastfeeding from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, press release, Jan. 2, 2003
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