Parents of premature babies trained to recognise pain more confident

New research involving 169 parents who had a child in one of the four intensive care units in London has shown that they are more confident in caring for their premature babies after leaving the hospital when taught to recognise and respond to indicators of pain.

Parents trained in premature baby pain more confident

By Louise-Anne Geddes,, Tuesday 24th August

Linda Franck, the lead author of the study and Professor at the University of California works in partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital Pain Control Service.  She said parents with children in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) do not usually receive much training on pain management.

Stress levels

Franck’s group surveyed the parents about their own stress levels and how well they thought their child’s pain was cared for.  Half of the parents involved were given information booklets and two training sessions with a nurse on how to care for their child’s pain, while the other parents received a general parenting booklet and no training.  The parents who had the specific pain training felt more satisfied with the information they were given than the parents without, who wanted to play a more significant role in comforting their babies.  Parents’ stress levels remain high while their children are
still in the hospital, despite the extra training.

Training leads to more confidence in parents

“The sources of stress for parents while their babies are still in the hospital is a very complex issue,” said Franck.  This is an issue which cannot be addressed by this study, and may not be able to be treated by the training provided.  However, Franck’s study was linked with more positive parental attitudes when taking their babies home from hospital.  She told Reuters Health:

“”When they went home, parents who received the intervention felt more confident and competent in understanding their baby’s stress cues and in comforting their baby,”
The study group intends to develop further training materials including videos to teach parents comforting techniques for their babies.

Expert advice for Mindful Mums

Speaking to Mindful Mum today, Linda Franck discusses the most important things taught to parents.

“Parents need to know that they have a very important role in their baby’s comfort. Over time, parents will get to know their baby better than anyone else. It is important to remember that all of the signs of pain in babies occur naturally at times when babies are not in pain. It is the amount, timing and pattern of the signs that tell us whether babies are having pain. Each baby is different and finding out if a baby has pain can take some good detective work.  Parents find it helpful if they become involved in comforting their baby as soon as they are able, by getting to know their baby’s signs of pain, by becoming involved in decisions about how their baby’s pain is relieved and by providing comforting touch. It is an important part of the nurse’s role to teach parents how to do this safely and to provide parents with the support and encouragement they need to get involved.

Baby Pain QuoteParents should also feel free to ask questions and to offer their opinions or ideas, even if not asked. This is a new thing for many parents, and for all first time parents. With time you they become more comfortable talking with nurses, doctors and therapists as a partner in their baby’s care.”

Mindful Mum Pregnancy and Birth expert Amanda Gwynne says:
“I believe it is an excellent idea to provide training to premature infants, not only in methods of providing comfort to babies in pain, but also to cover other aspects of caring for premature infants at home. Recent research suggests that intensive care for premature babies affects the pain processing in the infants brain, and may affect future perception of pain as they grow up. Therefore, a priority must be to provide good quality pain management to minimise any pain experienced during treatment”

Reuters, Parents who know of preemies’ pain more confident 24 Aug 2011

Further Information:
Great Ormand Street Hospital Pain Control Service


Rima R @ Flickr


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