Relieving pain with a parent’s touch

The Children and Women's Health Unit at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital has a new way to reduce pain experienced by infants during procedures, and it's simply a parent's touch.

As part of the Power of a Parent’s Touch initiative, mothers are encouraged to hold their baby's skin-to-skin (infant clothed in only a diaper and placed on their mother's bare chest) and if possible latch baby to their breast during a painful procedure.

Research to inform this initiative was done locally at the IWK, by Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at Dalhousie University and an IWK Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.
Early exposure to pain in life can impact how infants feel and react to pain later in life. Pain can also affect their learning and attention, as well as how a child develops according to Campbell-Yeo.

According to Campbell-Yeo, the method has been proven to reduce the infant’s response to pain by stabilizing the infant’s heart rate and oxygen levels, as well as decreasing their response to pain.

The registered nurses and lactation consultants at the Open Arms Family Clinic in Antigonish, NS, have provided education and informed prenatal women about the benefit of a parent's touch during painful procedures. Nursing staff and laboratory technicians have also been educated on the method and the benefits. Since having started implementing the practice at St. Martha's Regional Hospital, the team has received many positive comments from families and staff and they look forward to continuing to work with patients and their families to implement this important initiative.

Bethany Theuerkauf, a former patient of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital participated in the Power of a Parent’s Touch initiative and saw first-hand the difference it made.

“The staff really encouraged me when I wanted to nurse or do skin-to-skin for my son during his routine lab procedures. That meant a lot to me and we were able to get them done. It gave the baby a knowingness that this was his safe, comfort place.” said Theuerkauf. “Since being at St. Martha’s, my baby has had a full array of procedures done and every time that is what we went back to, and I was very thankful to be able to provide that for my son, and myself.

“It was about being aware of best practices and being informed to make the best decision for me and my son,” she said. “I was made to feel comfortable, and make my own choice and the skin-to-skin method for me, brought a lot of peace and deepened our relationship quicker, and I got to know my child quicker.”

For more information on the initiative, you can find a two-minute video on Youtube developed by the Campbell-Yeo research team at