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Reducing your baby’s pain during invasive tests or procedures


Babies express their pain in different ways such as in their facial expressions and movements, and changes may also occur to their heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and colour.

Causes of pain

While your baby is in hospital they may need to have tests that can cause them to feel pain. This may include:

  • newborn screening test—offered to all babies between 48 to 72 hours of age. This test requires a small amount of blood to be collected from your baby's heel, which involves a skin puncture. For further information about this test please refer to Mater Mothers' Hospitals' brochure Your baby's Newborn Screening Test.
  • more extensive tests may be required if your baby is being cared for in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit.
  • tubes may need to be inserted through your baby's nose or mouth. Tubes may be used for breathing or feeding. Some babies may need tubes inserted in their chest or abdomen as part of their treatment
  • surgery—some babies may require an operation. Pain from this procedure can last for several days afterwards.

Managing your baby’s pain

  • Identify how your baby responds to pain. You can help the doctors and nurses caring for your baby by describing their responses to any painful procedures.
  • Research indicates that a sweet solution (sucrose) given orally to your baby several minutes prior to an invasive test can help reduce their pain. If you are able to breastfeed your baby during the test you will be asked to start feeding several minutes prior to the test. This will provide the sucrose to your baby. If you are unable to breastfeed during the procedure your baby can be given some of your expressed breast milk or some sucrose delivered to the top of their tongue via a syringe several minutes before the test.
  • Wrapping your baby during and after a painful procedure may help them to feel more secure and limit their responses such as crying and agitation.
  • Odour—studies show that familiar smells such as breast milk or your skin may have a calming effect on both term and preterm babies.
  • Holding your baby during a procedure may comfort your baby, however you may be decide that this would be too distressing for you.
  • If your baby’s pain is more severe, they may be given an analgesic medication such as paracetamol.

After discharge from hospital, sweet solutions such as sugared water or honey should not be given to your baby.

  • Sugared water can increase the incidence of dental caries.
  • Honey should not be given to infants under 12 months of age as it can lead to botulism.


PEGS Newborn Pain Project Reducing pain or discomfort for your baby during painful procedures in hospital. Information for families. n.d.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.

© 2017 Mater Misericordiae Ltd. ACN 096 708 922

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430027
Last modified 20/7/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 19/7/2017
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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