Analgesic Effect of Maternal Human Milk Odor on Premature Neonates: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Abstract

Background:

Two studies have demonstrated an analgesic effect of maternal milk odor in preterm neonates, without specifying the method of olfactory stimulation.

Research aim:

This study aimed to assess the analgesic effect of maternal milk odor in preterm neonates by using a standardized method of olfactory stimulation.

Methods:

This trial was prospective, randomized, controlled, double blinded, and centrally administered. The inclusion criteria for breastfed infants included being born between 30 and 36 weeks + 6 days gestational age and being less than 10 days postnatal age. There were two groups: (a) A maternal milk odor group underwent a venipuncture with a diffuser emitting their own mother’s milk odor and (2) a control group underwent a venipuncture with an odorless diffuser. The primary outcome was the Premature Infant Pain Profile (PIPP) score, with secondary outcomes being the French scale of neonatal pain—Douleur Aiguë du Nouveau-né (DAN) scale—and crying duration. All neonates were given a dummy.

Results:

Our study included 16 neonates in the maternal milk odor group and 17 in the control group. Neonates exposed to their own mother’s milk odor had a significantly lower median PIPP score during venipuncture compared with the control group (6.3 [interquartile range (IQR) = 5-10] versus 12.0 [IQR = 7-13], p = .03). There was no significant difference between the DAN scores in the two groups (p = .06). Maternal milk odor significantly reduced crying duration after venipuncture (0 [IQR = 0-0] versus 0 [IQR = 0-18], p = .04).

Conclusion:

Maternal milk odor has an analgesic effect on preterm neonates.

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