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How To Relieve Your Infant’s Pain

By Tamera L. Young, RN, MSN

It’s 2am and you’re awakened by your crying, fussy newborn. You change her diaper, and try to nurse her, but her crying continues. She seems to be in pain.

Pain in babies

Babies experience pain for many reasons: circumcision, gas, immunizations or teething, to name a few. As a parent, you want to relieve your little one’s pain ASAP! Knowing what to do, and when, can help to alleviate their pain and your concerns.

First, learn what pain looks like in an infant. Your baby may be unusually fussy or irritable, crying, grimacing, frowning, or have tensed muscles. Sometimes these signs will be short-lived, other times they may last quite a while.

Comforting a baby in pain

Start by comforting her and trying to distract her. With skin-to-skin contact, try breastfeeding, rocking or singing to comfort and distract her. Sometimes, all that is needed is time for the discomfort to pass, and soothing your baby through anything safe that seems to work for her is best.

Relieving gas pain

For gas pain, try laying baby over your knees to put gentle counterpressure on her tummy. Over-the-counter simethicone drops are also useful. This medication is often very effective in relieving pain by breaking up the gas bubbles in the tummy. To avoid gas, try feeding baby in a more upright position and burp her frequently, but particularly when changing from one breast to another during nursing. If your baby takes formula, try different bottles, nipples with different flow rates or even consider a different formula.

Soothing teething pain

For teething pain, start with the easiest and fastest relief, such as frozen teething rings or wash rags. There are also several over-the-counter teething remedies available, from homeopathic treatments to topical anesthetics but be aware that the topical numbing medications can also numb the rest of the mouth and throat, and the effects do not typically last long.

Secondly, be aware that one of the most popular homeopathic remedies was recalled last year because of uneven doses in the tablets and risks of overdose.

Preventing vaccination pain

Ask your healthcare provider if it’s OK to give your baby infant acetaminophen prior to her shots. Some providers think the medication may suppress the baby’s immune response to the vaccines, others say it’s OK. Counter-pressure and ice at the injection side, as well as gentle massage, also provide relief.

Finally, if your baby is inconsolable after trying these strategies, call your care provider. In fact, anytime you feel that something is just “not right” is always a good time to call your healthcare provider for further advice and action.

Report Pain and Symptoms to your Pediatrician

Be sure to contact your pediatrician immediately if your baby demonstrates signs of pain in addition to any of the following warning signs:

  • High fever (greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit for a newborn)
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat
  • Lethargy
  • Bulging of the fontanelle (the soft spot on top of the head).

Tamera L. Young, RN, MSN, is visiting faculty, Chamberlain College of Nursing.


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