Sucrose – pain relief for babies

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While your baby is in hospital, it may be necessary for us to undertake painful procedures for the purpose of monitoring and treatment. Painful procedures may include taking blood and putting in an intravenous cannula, giving intravenous injections and removing adhesive tapes. Studies have shown that babies do experience pain and the experience they have as a baby may affect how they react to pain later in life. We therefore aim to prevent or minimise any potential discomfort your baby may experience.

How can we minimize pain?

The use of Sucrose, a sugar solution, in addition to other measures such as cuddling or using a dummy, or clean gloved finger for baby to suck may offer comfort and minimize pain. Where possible, we try to group any procedures within your baby’s care together to allow long periods of rest in between.

Blood tests and injections are kept to a minimum, using the finest needles possible and taking the smallest quantities of blood.

Research has shown that combining these methods are effective in reducing short term pain or discomfort.

How does Sucrose help to relieve pain?

The Sucrose is a preservative-free oral solution and is a form of sugar which has been specially prepared for young babies. It is believed that the taste of the sweet solution triggers a natural release of the body’s own pain killers.

It is widely used across the world for pain relief in young babies. Studies have shown that sucrose can be effective in reducing signs of pain including less grimacing and reduced crying.

How is sucrose given?

Sucrose is only effective when given by mouth on the front part of the baby’s tongue (where most of the taste buds are located). It can also be given on a dummy. It is not effective when given down a feeding tube.

How safe is Sucrose?

Many studies have shown that Sucrose is both effective and safe for use as short term pain relief for young babies. The solution works very quickly and has no side effects nor long-term effects. It has been recommended for use to prevent procedural pain by health authorities.

How can you help your baby?

As parents, you are vital members of the team looking after your baby. Staff can teach you how to recognise when your baby is in pain or discomfort and show you ways that you can help:

  • Breast feeding: If your baby is well enough to suck at your breast, you can encourage them to suck for two or three minutes before minor procedures.
  • Non-nutritive sucking (sucking on a dummy or gloved finger): This helps to reduce pain and is a convenient way to give Sucrose.
  • Containment holding: Place one hand firmly but gently on your baby’s head and place your other hand either on your baby’s tummy or around the legs and bottom.
  • Kangaroo care: Skin-to-skin contact between a parent and baby also has a pain-relieving effect. If it is not possible to do this during the procedure, but you may be able to do it as soon as the procedure is completed. If your baby is too small or unwell to receive kangaroo care, you could change your baby’s position in the incubator, providing boundaries so he or she is snuggled in a nest.
  • Positive Touch: The simple act of gentle touching during a painful procedure can lessen anxiety and pain.

If you are present and wish to remain with your baby during the procedure, we can advise you how you can comfort your baby in these ways. Alternatively, one of the nurses or doctors may do this on your behalf.

Who decides whether my baby will receive sucrose?

The team of doctors and nurses caring for your baby will assess whether it is appropriate for your baby to receive Sucrose before a procedure. Please tell us if you would prefer that Sucrose is not given to your baby.

Telephone Numbers

NNU: 01908 997 167

PAU: 01908 996 368

Ward 5: 01908 996 377

Hospital Switchboard: 01908 660033

Matron for Children’s Services: 01908 996 587