How New Borns go through pain and why it should be calmed.

Even with the parents who have much experience, it can be frustrating and even upsetting to watch a baby over go a painful procedure.

In Kenya alone, the number of children going through painful medical procedures is overwhelming.

In 2020, it was recorded that, 1.15 million babies only were born in hospitals and displayed quite a number of painful medical procedures as well as immunization.

Around an estimated figure of 10,000 of the new born babies normally hospitalized in their first days needs more medical procedures.


In a two year period only, there had been 80,666 pediatric admissions according to a research done by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).

Nearly 30,000 of the infants are normally less than a month old and had to be put through several painful diagnostic and medical procedures for treatment. The procedures include injections, dressing of wounds, vein punctures to draw blood, insertion of nasal devices, lung vacuuming’s and drawing of spinal fluid through deep injections among others.

Hospitalized newborns may go through a dozen of painful medical procedures in a day according to a study led by Obrien Kyololo of Moi University Eldoret.

Dr. Kyololo and team followed up on 200 infants hospitalized in neonates units during the first week of their life.

What happens when a baby is in pain?

Photo Source: Health Today

In the previous description of the study, Dr. Kyololo reiterated that; other than the instant frustrations, consistent pain has severe prolonged effects on children.

The study also clarifies that, the new born is expected to experience reduction of oxygen levels and pressure increase around the brain.

If prolonged, this may actually lead to an ailment known as hyperalgesia- an overstated feeling of pain, and also complications in the nervous system.  

For example, During a previous scientific conference of the Kenya Pediatrics Association, it was addressed that new born circumcised at birth go through too much pain during immunization four to six months later.

Pain releaving medicines such as lidocaine cream and others are active and meant for use with new borns but are not readily available in the market according to the study.

Parents can consider other available and affordable pain treatments approaches such as breast feeding and sweet-tasting solutions as suggested by Kyololo.

Pain-relief for babies

Infants and mothers have a better reason to be happy regardless of the despair. After a few research, the Ministry of Health has established the first neonatal pain management guidelines in Kenya.

 The guidelines state that breastfeeding will be the first pain reliever to be given at least two minutes before any procedure begins.

In case an infant in not willing to breastfeed, it should be given 1ml to 2ml of expressed breast milk as another form of pain reliever.

Parents are also advised to be present to provide non-nutritive sucking(sucking of fingers, baby pacifiers etc) or skin-to-skin care during procedures.

 “Breastfeeding should be encouraged, among other painkilling strategies during consecutive procedures in district and county hospitals,”as recommended by Kemri.

For those not able to breastfeed, Kemri suggested that, expressed breast milk is favored, but oral sugar solutions are also a suitable alternative. Some music is also recommended.

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