Why it's so hard to treat pain in infants
For decades physicians believed that premature babies didn’t experience pain. Here’s what doctors know now – and the innovative solutions being embraced by today's caregivers.
Doctors once believed that infants—especially premature babies—did not feel pain, and if they did, they would not remember it.
This might sound like Medieval medicine. But as recently as the 1980s, babies undergoing surgery were given a muscle relaxant to paralyze them while in the operating room but were not given any pain medication, says Fiona Moultrie, a pediatrician and researcher at the University of Oxford who focuses on neonatal pain. “At the time, it was assumed that most of the behaviors that infants were exhibiting were just reflexes.”
Over the next decades, studies documented changes in infant behavior, stress hormones, and brain activity, proving that even the tiniest babies did indeed suffer pain. Research also