How Breastfeeding Can Make Vaccinations Easier for Your Baby

Injections are never fun for your baby—but according to new research, there's something you can do to make them a bit easier.

Baby Immunizations and Breastfeeding Gajus/Shutterstock
Any woman who has ever watched her baby cry when getting a vaccination knows the experience can feel heart wrenching—so what if we told you there might be a way for you to make injections a bit easier on your little one?

New research indicates that there just might be: According to a study from the University of Ottawa in Canada, infants appeared to feel less pain if they were breastfed while receiving their vaccinations. This research was carried out based on the results of 10 studies on the topic—the objective was to determine the effect of breastfeeding during vaccine
administration by contrasting infants' reactions to those observed while they were injected in other situations. 

"Needles are used for babies' early childhood vaccinations and medical care during childhood illnesses. These are essential, but painful," the study's authors wrote. "They cause distress for the babies and often their parents/caregivers, and can result in future anxiety and fear about needle. We compared effectiveness of breastfeeding in reducing pain (as scored by crying time and pain scores), to holding, babies lying flat, or the giving of water or sweet solutions...All studies examined if breastfeeding reduced pain during vaccinations."

According to the researchers, breastfeeding cut down infants' crying time by 38 seconds on average. They also found children scored 1.7 points lower on pain scales when they were breastfed during administration. The study's authors suggest that being breastfed can soothe, distract and comfort infants. It might go beyond this, though: Experts have reason to believe that endorphins in breastmilk might help reduce an infant's pain as well. 

Many of the infants observed were aged one to six months, and researchers pointed out that these results could change if they placed more focus on infants up to a year old. 

"Breastfeeding can provide much more than nourishment. It provides comfort and it reduces pain," study lead author Denise Harrison, PhD, said according to Daily Mail. "This is not just about distracting the child from the needle. We know that skin-to-skin contact is a factor, along with the heartbeat, the sound and smell of the mother and the pleasant taste of the breast milk."

If you're not nursing your child or can't breasfeed while he or she is being injected, try these tips from our sister site, Parents, which appear below!

5 Ways to Make Baby's Shots Less Painful