London: A new study suggests that babies of first-time mothers feel more pain when having routine injections than those of experienced mothers, because the youngsters can sense their anxiety about what is to come.
While new mothers may not show they are worried, their stress still has a very real effect on babies waiting for their first vaccination, the Daily Mail reported.
The babies express more signs of pain, even though they cannot possibly know what is going to happen, according to psychologist Dr Nadja Reissland of Durham University.
She said that the empathy from first-time mothers about the pain to be inflicted on their child affects them both.
“They are thinking of how their baby is going to be hurt – it doesn’t show on their face or in their behaviour but it’s communicated to the child,” she said.
“With more experienced mothers, they feel less anxious and can cope better,” she added.
In a study by experts at the university, 50 mothers holding their two-month-old babies were videotaped during two routine vaccinations carried out one after the other.
Maternal touch, behaviour and the pain expression of the babies were analysed before, during and after the injections.
Expressions such as facial grimacing and crying were objectively coded for an overall pain score.
After each procedure, mothers were asked to estimate their baby’s level of pain.
Pain observed in all babies increased progressively during the vaccination process, with more pain in response to the first injection, followed by a lull, and then a further increase in pain with the second injection.
However, babies of first-time mothers showed more pain in anticipation of the first injection than those of experienced mothers.
Virtually all the mothers overestimated the extent of their baby’s pain, the study found.
The study is published in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology.