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What parents need to know about pain in newborns

June 17, 2020


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Craig Adams
February 8, 2016

The euphemism you refer to is Male Genital Mutilation. Male (and intersex) children are human beings deserving of the same human and constitutional rights as females to bodily and hence genital integrity, to be free from harm, to protection from injury and assault. Instead of directing parents to ask if a procedure is necessary or painful, why don’t medical, and health professionals who know better, do better? They can start by telling their unethical and brutal colleagues to stop cutting the normal, natural genitals of children for profit and/or compulsion to repeat the trauma.

Sanford (Sandy) D'Esopo
February 6, 2016

I cannot understand why the results of Danish researcher Morten Frisch have not been acknowledged by AAP, NIH, CDC or to my knowledge any other major health care organization. His findings that both male and female partners fail to experience successful sex are bad enough. But ignoring his study of 334,000 boys, which found a 46% higher incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorder, is not only malpractice, it is criminal

ajay shah
February 3, 2016

in india the hindu ism practicing population generally never circumcise
the penis unless medically necessary in rear cases.
i am very gratefull that my parents never curcumcised me.i cannot imagine me having a circumcised penis. of course i have to wash and keep it clean but the sexual pleasure i have had with a full penis is very pleasurable and i am always confident that the foreskin will protect my forehead of the penis so much so that if the foreskin ever fails to go back covering the whole penis i physically roll it back to stop the forehead from getting sexually excited when it rubs against the underwear.
many hindus look with utter contempt muslims and christians who circumcise their boys which is called sunnat in hindi and urdu.

Deborah S.
January 30, 2016

It’s time for the United States to join the rest of the civilized world! Routine, circumcision of baby boys violates every necessary ethical principle required for surgery on a minor. The degree of cultural bias, denial and misinformation that exists is mind-numbing. Leave baby boys intact, the way nature intended. Stop this barbaric, primitive, practice of genital mutilation. Help educate the public. Once one sees what an actual “circumcision” entails, there is no turning back. The number of people who still believe it is a “snip” of redundant tissue is astounding. At least the myth that infants don’t feel pain is now out there. Long overdue!

January 29, 2016

Author is afraid to call circumcision for what it is, barbaric genital mutilation carried out on a baby while awake, without any way to give proper pain relief. Grouping infant genital mutilation together with things like a heel prick is laughable. The cognitive dissonance on this issue from the US medical establishment is appalling but predictable.

January 27, 2016

I think it’s telling that the editors selected a photo of a baby girl for this article. As one of the other readers commented, circumcision is the elephant in the hospital!

Hans Castorp
January 27, 2016

Dr. McCarthy,

You have a platform to speak the truth regarding the harm of routine infant circumcision, and to make a real difference.

For the love of G-d, please don’t let this precious opportunity slip through your fingers.

January 27, 2016

The american medical establishment has lost all credibility. They have become the laughing stock of the world. They are an embarrassment to themselves and the rest of us. They promote archaic medical practices and their recommendations are driven by sexism and political correctness. They are so proud of themselves but they are nothing more than a symptom of what is wrong with the larger society.

January 27, 2016

After watching with tears streaming down my face as my first two babies endured the heel prick (they screamed the entire time – unwrapped, laying on a bed, arms flailing), I determined to not put a baby through that again. With my next baby I asked the nurse if I could nurse my daughter during the procedure. At first the nurse balked but at my insistence for at least trying, she agreed. All my baby did was wince once, then she fell back asleep. I did not unwrap my baby save for one foot, I held her close to me. The nurse could not believe what she was seeing and called other nurses over to watch. With each baby after that I did the same thing and each time the nurses were astonished at how my babies didn’t so much as whimper. My babies don’t fuss when they are vaccinated for the same reason – they are still mostly wrapped, held close to me, and often nursing. Only one time did a nurse refuse to go along with my request to hold/wrap/nurse my baby. I walked out and went to another lab where the nurse worked with me.

stephanie smith
January 26, 2016

I’m wondering where the references for this blog post are? I don’t believe sucrose/glucose is at all effective for pain reduction-it may confuse the infant, cause the infant to focus temporarily on the strange sweetness/texture, etc. — but distraction and pain reduction are not equivalent (similarly-an infant so shut down from pain/stimuli/lack of attention/too much crying may appear asleep and possibly calm but most current evidence suggests elevated cortisol, breathing irregularities and heart rate decrease would suggest shut down/’close to death’ rather than sleeping).

January 26, 2016

Or here’s a concept, don’t mutilate the genitals of children you fucking idiots.

January 26, 2016

Agree!! Circumcision is barbaric.

January 27, 2016

Well said!

David Biviano
January 26, 2016

Once again, a highly respected medical publication and author lay out the parameters for pain prevention for infants, and classify circumcision as unnecessary : “But even perfectly healthy babies may have some painful procedures, such as heel sticks for newborn screening tests, immunizations, or circumcisions” – without questioning why a healthy baby would be having one of the most painful surgeries there is – the non-anesthetized amputation of highly enervated tissue from the boy’s genitals. (Even so-called anesthetization is ineffective and/or dangerous). I look for the day when such an article refers to medical ethics, to the Hippocratic Oath, to the violation of human rights to an intact body, and stop glossing over this “elephant in the hospital”!

stephanie smith
January 26, 2016

This article only mentions a few doses of sucrose/glucose may be necessary for something like circumcision — right: penile/foreskin amputation with just a few sips of sugar. Sick society we live in.

James Mac
January 26, 2016

Given that America:-
1. has been routinely circumcising males for generations for health reasons.
2. has the worst sexual health of any developed nation, including the highest rate of HIV/AIDS.
3. remains the only country where doctors circumcise baby boys in hospitals.
4. is the only country who’s failed to sign-up to UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, with circumcision being a clear violation of a child’s physical integrity.

One has to ask; why is this practice tolerated at all, let alone promoted (but not recommended) by the AAP?

David Atkinson
January 26, 2016

In the case of foreskin amputation, the question is not whether a child feels pain, but whether it is acceptable to steal sexually important body parts from healthy children.

Even if the penis could be probed, clamped, sliced into, and partially amputated without torturing the baby, it would still be a human rights violation, since everyone deserves the opportunity to keep their whole body.

January 26, 2016

“Do what your baby can’t do……. Speak up!”……. Exactly right…… Speak up against medically unnecessary painful procedures like circumcision! If it’s not medically necessary why do it? Now we are all in agreement that early pain is not in the best interest of babies……. So eliminating unnecessary surgery/procedures seems like the next step. Why not start with eliminating circumcision?

January 26, 2016

I’m confused, because I thought sugar was long since proven to be ineffective pain relief, though it may reduce crying.

January 26, 2016

The AAP statement doesn’t recommend using sugar water….. Due to not knowing the long term effects of it on the brain….

January 26, 2016

The author has come right up to the point of saying don’t circumcise your baby. Why not go all the way and just say it, people need to hear it. It is irresponsible to put an infant through an unnecessary cosmetic surgery of the genitals. Even if you don’t understand or believe in the functions of the foreskin in adult sexuality (which is crazy, they are real and documented), even if you don’t believe in a person’s right to an unaltered body (without medical necessity), even if you don’t believe in equal protection for boys and girls, certainly the known dangers of pain and complications of any surgery should be enough to end this ancient barbaric practice. Doctors should be practicing medicine, not superstition.

Tara Shipley
January 26, 2016

It is incredibly irresponsible to suggest that sucrose or glucose is even remotely effective for circumcision pain.
“Compared head to head, DPNB is substantially more effective than EMLA cream. Ring block and lidocaine creams other than EMLA also reduced pain but did not eliminate it. ****Trials of oral acetaminophen, sugar solutions, pacifiers, music, and other environmental modifications to reduce circumcision pain did not prove them effective. ****”
Brady-Fryer B, Wiebe N, Lander JA. Pain relief for neonatal circumcision. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD004217. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004217.pub2

Hope Savage
January 26, 2016

Then why does the AAP endorse routine circumcision? I really want to know

January 26, 2016

They don’t. The closest they come is to say that the benefits *may* outweigh the risks, but not enough to recommend routine infant circumcision. What they also don’t say is the the “risk” is already comically low to begin with; we’re talking a drop from .04% to .03%. Hygiene and safe sex prevents problems, not cutting off body parts.

January 26, 2016

The AAP doesn’t endorse infant circumcision……. They advocate getting paid to do it……. It’s a trade organization…

January 26, 2016

Sugar water isn’t going to minimize the pain of having the most sensitive part of your genitals ripped, crushed, and violently cut away from your body while you’re strapped to a plastic board.

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