Breastfeeding for procedural pain in infants beyond the neonatal period

 Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Groupbreastfeeding2



Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) show that breastfeeding newbo rn infants during painful procedures reduces pain. Mechanisms are considered to be multifactorial and include sucking, skin-to-skin contact, warmth, rocking, sound and smell of the mother, and possibly endogenous opiates present in the breast milk.


To determine the effect of breastfeeding on procedural pain in infant s beyond the neonatal period (first 28 days of life) up to one year of age compared to no intervention, placebo, parental holding, skin-to-skin contact, expressed breast milk, formula milk, bottle feeding, sweet-tasting solutions (e.g. sucrose or glucose), distraction, or o ther interventions.

 Authors’ conclusions

We conclude, based on the 10 studies included in this review, that breastfeeding may help reduce pain during vaccination for infants beyond the neonatal period. Breastfeeding consistently reduced behavioural responses of cry duration and composite pain scores during and following vaccinations. However, there was no evidence that breastfeeding had an effect on physiological responses. No studies included in this review involved populations of hospitalised infants undergoing other skin-breaking procedures. Although it may be possible to extrapolate the review results to this population, further studies of efficacy, feasibility, and acceptability in this population are warranted