When Babies Feel Pain

January 28, 2010 at 8:20 am Leave a comment

Identifying and treating pain in babies is a complicated component of care for medical staff to deal with. We know that babies feel pain but they lack the ability to comfort themselves and objectively measuring pain is difficult for medical staff to do.  Doctors usually rely on changes in vital signs (heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure), and the amount of oxygen in the blood. Other strong indicators are a baby’s facial expression and behavior.

The doctors and nurses at BC Children’s Hospital take regular measurements of pain during procedures such as blood testing and know that if a baby is in pain, it needs to be treated.

Comfort measures like providing skin-to-skin touch, a soother, or breastfeeding during painful procedures — can go a long way to help reduce pain.

A new research study taking place should shed more light on the issue. BC Children’s and BC Women’s  are one of eight centres across Canada in a national study about pain assessment and management in infants and children. This study will provide important information to caregivers and parents, and ultimately serve those we seek to help the most – the babies coming to the Hospital for treatment.

Learn More: Is your baby in pain?

Because little babies can’t tell you anything about how they feel, doctors and nurses are using new tools to help define pain in the babies they care for. Infants give certain behavioral signals when they are hurting:

  • Crying—Your baby’s cry may be more insistent, higher pitched, and may last longer than usual. If your baby is very ill or premature, they may not have the energy to cry, so may be quiet even though they are in pain.
  • Making faces—Your baby may grimace, open their mouth, wrinkle their brow, have deep lines around their nose and squeeze their eyes shut.
  • Body posture and movement—Your baby’s body may be tense or stiff, with the arms and legs either pulled in or all stretched out. Your baby may be squirmy and move their arms and legs in and out. If they are premature or very frail or ill, they may be quiet or floppy, with low muscle tone—and may even withdraw and seem to be sleeping.
  • Irritability—Your baby may be fussy, restless and off their usual schedule, refusing to eat or sleep.  Your baby may not be calmed by comforting or feeding.

For more information, visit BCCH’s Integrated Pain Service webpage, which has a wide variety of resources.


Entry filed under: Angelina, At the Hospital.

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