The effect of a familiar odor on newborns during an uncomfortable procedure

Exposure to a familiar odor was associated with less crying.

First, the details.

  • 44 newborns were exposed to vanillin (via their mother or crib) or no odor prior to sticking their heel with a needle.
  • On the day of the heel stick, infants were either exposed to the now familiar odor, an unfamiliar odor, or no odor before, during, and after the procedure.

And, the results.

  • Infants exposed to a familiar odor displayed little distress and more oral movements during the procedure compared to the neonates exposed to an unfamiliar odor.
  • Whether the odor was learned via their mother or the crib made no difference.
  • Exposure to an unfamiliar odor or no odor did not lessen their distress.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Olfactory support is a useful intervention that may potentially help minimize deleterious effects of neonatal pain.”

I wonder if this form of aromatherapy would make parenting easier during the first few days after discharge from the hospital?

10/3/07 14:50 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.