Sugar Water for Vaccine Pain

There are many different controversies surrounding immunization in children.  One of the controversies surrounds controlling the pain children experience with vaccinations.  If you do choose to vaccinate your baby, there are a few things you might consider to help ease the pain your newborn experiences.


There is probably nothing more soothing to a newborn that being put to the breast to nurse.  If you breastfeed your baby, which I strongly recommend, you should consider nursing as soon as the injections are given.  However, for some parents this may not be an option, either because your baby has already been weaned or you have chosen to formula feed.  A study just published in the Journal of Pediatrics compared breastfeeding to nothing for vaccine-associated pain.  Not surprisingly, those who breastfed right after vaccination had less crying and reduced pain scores.

Sugar Water

Along the same lines, a nice study was also just published in Pediatrics looking at giving sucrose-water (sugar-water) to babies right after the vaccinations at 2-months and 4-months.  Their findings are the same as those above – reduced crying and decreased pain scores for those who receive the sugar-water versus nothing.  Graph A on the left is 2-month shots.  Graph B on the right is 4-month shots.  The top line is pain and crying when given just plain-old water.  The line on the bottom is pain and crying when given sugar-water.

My Advice

If you choose to vaccinate your baby, try to breastfeed them immediately after the shots at the 2,4, and 6 month check-ups.  If you do not breastfeed or have already weaned your baby, try the sugar-water.

Where Do I Get This Stuff?

I have searched high and low on the internet and cannot find either of the medical grade products that I have seen used in the hospital.  The two brands that I have seen are Sweet-ease and Tootsweet.  Ask your pediatrician if they have either, or if you want you can just make your own:

Combine one packet of sugar (the normal white granulated stuff that you would put in your coffee) with 10 ml of water (this is about 1/3 of an ounce).  Do not make a large bottle and reuse as it will turn bad rather quickly.

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5 Responses to Sugar Water for Vaccine Pain

  1. Jennifer says:

    That’s really cool…I’m not surprised though. I remember that short period when I was in nursing school..during a circumcision the doctors had the student nursed dip their fingers in “sugar-water,” and then let the babies suck on that finger during the procedure. The crying was minimum..if any at all.

  2. I can attest to the fact that nursing immediately following immunizations does help. Having a pediatrician and nurses who understand helped me feel relaxed while taking extra time in the examination room.

  3. DrReynolds says:

    Our son just got his pneumonia vaccine (Prevnar) and I can now personally attest to the greatness of letting him nurse after the shot. He was far from happy with us after getting the shot. However, when we put him to breast he immediately calmed down and we did not have any problems from then on.

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