photo of Lenore Goldfarb
Breastfeeding and Health

Breastfeeding a potent painkiller for infants: study

April 2, 2002 - Reuters

CHICAGO - Breastfeeding eases a baby’s discomfort during a painful needle stick procedure and might work as a potent painkiller during potentially traumatizing experiences such as circumcision, researchers said yesterday.

Infants who were held and breastfed while undergoing a painful heel lance, a routine hospital procedure used to obtain a blood sample, cried and grimaced less and their heartbeats remained calmer than infants who were not breastfed, a University of Chicago study said.

"Breastfeeding is a potent analgesic intervention in newborns during a standard blood collection," study author Larry Gray of the University of Chicago wrote in this month’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Previous animal studies have shown tastes and flavours in breastmilk can block pain signals in the spinal cord, and suckling can have a calming effect. The researchers said infants' physical contact with their mothers likely also kept them calmer.

There is a debate about whether babies retain memories of single, intensely painful experiences such as circumcision, but some circumcised infants do manifest exaggerated reactions to a needle stick months later.

"The claim can no longer be made that newborn pain is for the moment only," Gray wrote.

In another study in the same journal on the subject of breastfeeding, researchers at the University of New Hampshire in Durham examined the hypothesis that a mother who exercises might produce less appetizing breastmilk.

A previous study found lactic acid levels in breastmilk 30 minutes after a strenuous treadmill test were high enough to deter some babies from drinking it.

In the latest study, researchers waited an hour after exercise before obtaining expressed breastmilk, and also compared milk produced after moderate exercise.

Strenuous exercise did raise the level of lactic acid in the mothers' breastmilk, but their babies showed no sign of rejecting the milk, researcher Timothy Quinn wrote. Moderate exercise did not produce higher lactic acid levels.

print this page back

If you value this service, kindly consider a donation to the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation (registered charity). Earmark the donation for the International Breastfeeding Centre (Newman Breastfeeding Clinic) and/or the Goldfarb Breastfeeding Program.

Donate online:

Donate by mail: Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation, 5890 Monkland Ave, Suite 16, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H4A 1G2.

© 2002-2019 Lenore Goldfarb, PhD, CCC, IBCLC, ALC and contributing authors to All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any specific questions or concerns about any health issue, you should consult with a qualified healthcare provider.
The AskLenore administration is not affiliated with, nor sponsored by, nor do we sell or receive any commissions or incentives from, any of the products or services that we link to on this website. Therefore, we are not responsible for the accuracy, quality, availability, or suitability of said products or services. You should always do your own research and due diligence before purchasing or using any product or service that we link to on this website.
The views and opinions expressed on the message boards are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Any content provided by our users are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.