A study has been conducted in Italy with the aim of comparing breastfeeding with orally administered sucrose solution in reducing pain response during blood sampling using the heel prick technique. The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial in a neonatal unit on term babies (n=101) undergoing testing with an automated piercing device for routine neonatal screening. Infants were randomly assigned to breastfeeding or to the oral administration of 1 mL of 25% sucrose solution. A validated multidimensional acute pain rating scale (Premature Infant Pain Profile) was used which assessed heart rate increase, oxygen saturation decrease, crying behavior, duration of sampling, and the number of performed heel lances. The researchers found that median pain scores were lower in the breastfeeding group (3.0) than in the sucrose-solution group (8.5). The median heart rate increase, oxygen saturation decrease, and duration of first cry for the breastfeeding group were, respectively, 13.0, -1, and 3 and for sucrose group were 22, -3, and 21. These were significantly different between the groups. There were no significant differences in the sampling duration and numbers of heel lances. The researchers conclude that the study suggests that breastfeeding provides superior analgesia for heel pricks compared with oral sucrose in term neonates.

Codpietro L, Ceccarelli M, Ponzone A. (2008) Breastfeeding or oral sucrose solution in term neonates receiving heel lance: a randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics; 122: e716-21.