Our Recent Experience with Breastfeeding During Vaccinations
Recently Rosalie had her two month vaccinations, and it couldn’t have gone smoother. While worrying about the impending fussing and crying during her much-needed vaccinations, my mind wandered to the newborn babies that I see at my workplace getting their PKU and bilirubin tests done. I knew that as of fairly recently, our common practice is to have lab staff offer to complete these tests within the parents room instead of taking them down the hall, and preferably while the infant breastfeeds skin-to-skin. By doing so, the parents are nearby to console their babies, and there is something about nursing that settles babies right down. Previously, I had never considered breastfeeding during vaccinations as a comfort measure for my babies.
So, right before the nurse got ready to give Rosalie her injections, I quickly blurted out, “do you mind if I nurse her during?”, and being the wonderful woman that she is, she quickly responded “Please do!”
It honestly was a game changer, and I thought I better tell all the mamas I know about it in case you haven’t had a chance to try it out yet.
Breastfeeding gave the nurse the perfect angle to inject the vaccine into my daughter’s chubby little thighs. I was able to hold her tight against me skin-to-skin to comfort her and make sure she stayed still and safe, and Rosalie barely made a peep during the whole thing. The part she hated the most was when I switched her to the alternate side for her second vaccine before she was done feeding, but she settled down quickly. When they were both done, I continued feeding her until she was content, burped and changed her, then she settled in her car seat and away we went.
All I could think was, “this must be too good to be true”, but she slept soundly all the way home. She did sleep more and had a mild fever during the first 24 hours after receiving the vaccination, but I knew that was quite normal and it settled down without intervention.
This little one is 12 pounds and had her first set of shots yesterday. I #breastfed her while she had her two shots, and she barely fussed at all. Today she has had a low grade temperature and is sleeping lots, which I know is normal. Making sure she gets lots of extra cuddles today! 🤗
Scientific Evidence Supports Breastfeeding During Vaccinations
I decided to look for some scientific evidence to support breastfeeding during vaccinations, and I was surprised to see quite a few research articles to support the idea that breastfeeding can reduce discomfort during painful stimuli in babies.
A randomized clinical trial done in 2013 by Estefani et al. found that six and 12 month old infants who were given injections were in less pain if their mothers breastfed, than infants who were given massage therapy and the control group with no intervention. In order to relieve vaccination pain they recommended to breastfeed, but if unable then massage therapy can be used as a replacement method.
Breastfeeding affects all of infants senses and uses many sedation methods including skin-to-skin touch, sucking used as infant distraction, and the feeling of security for the infant. In addition, a mother’s milk has carbohydrates and precursors of melatonin, both of which can reduce pain. Golestan et al (2006) demonstrated that giving infants sugar-water can reduce pain during vaccinations.
Shah et al. (2006) showed that breastfeeding during blood sampling significantly reduced the length and intensity of infant crying in comparison to using a soother, taking sugar-water or being hugged. In addition, while there was no difference in o2 saturation and heart rate, length of cry was less when studying the effects of breastfeeding on infant pain relief (Efe et al., 2007). Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with the mother acts as a strong analgesic during infant heel pricks and notably decreases the time of cry and grimace (Gray et al, 2002).
What Does This Mean for Infants and Parents?
The results of all of these studies confirms the fact that mothers have the best way to console their infants experiencing pain, and it is right under their noses so to speak. Breastfeeding during vaccinations can make all the difference during a stressful experience, and may help new parents decide to have their infants vaccinated.
Instead of feeling helpless while their infants are crying, mothers can try breastfeeding during vaccinations as a comfort during necessary procedures.
Have you ever used breastfeeding as a form of pain relief for your baby? What sort of experiences have you had while your baby received his or her vaccinations? Please share in the comment section below to help other mamas.
Efe, E., Ozer, Z. C. (2007) The use of breastfeeding for pain relief during neonatal immunization injections. Appl Nurs Res, 20; 10-16.
Esfahani, M., Sheykhi, S., Abdeyazdan, Z., Mohamdreza, J., Boroumandfar, K. (2013). A comparative study on vaccination pain in the methods of massage therapy and mothers’ breast feeding during injection of infants referring to Navabsafavi Health Care Center in Isfahan. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res, 18(6); 494-498.
Golestan, M., Sadrebafghi, M., Akhavan Karbasi, S., Eslami, Z., Hashemi, A., Mirnaseri, F., et al. (2006). Comparison pain relieving effects of glucose and water in neonates. Iran J Pediatr., 16; 441-446.
Gray, L., Miller, L. W., Phillipp, B. L., Blass, E. M. (2002). Breastfeeding is analgesic in healthy newborns. Pediatrics, 109; 590-593.
Shah, P. S., Aliwalas, L. L., Shah, V. (2006). Breastfeeding or breast milk for procedural pain in neonates. Cochrane Database Syst Rev., 19.