For older children, research has shown that preparation may reduce crying or resistance of the procedure. Prepared children report less pain and show less distress. Proper preparation for a test or procedure may reduce an older child's anxiety, encourage cooperation, and help develop coping skills.
Given the developmental level of your child (0 - 1 year), pretest preparation will be of little benefit, but some considerations may ease your anxiety.
Before the test, know that your child probably will cry, and restraints may be used. The most important way you can help your child through this procedure is by being there and showing you care.
Crying is a normal response to the strange environment, unfamiliar people, restraints, and separation from you. Your infant will cry more for these reasons than because the test or procedure is uncomfortable.
Knowing this from the onset may help relieve some of your anxiety about what to expect. Having specific information about the test may further reduce your anxiety. For more information, please see the appropriate test.
Infants lack the physical control, coordination, and ability to follow commands that older children and adults usually possess. Restraints may be used during a procedure or other situation to ensure your infant's safety. For example, in order to get clear test results on an x-ray, there can't be any movement. Your infant may be restrained by hand or with physical devices.
If blood needs to be taken or an IV started, restraints are important in preventing injury to your infant. If your child moves while the needle is being inserted, the needle could damage a blood vessel, bone, tissue, or nerves.
Most tests and procedures require extreme accuracy to obtain the desired outcome, whether to place an IV correctly, ensure accurate test results, or to avoid injuring the infant.
Your provider will use every means to ensure the safety and comfort of your baby. Besides restraints, other measures include medications, observation, and monitors.
DURING THE PROCEDURE
Your presence helps your infant during the procedure, especially if the procedure allows you to maintain physical contact. If the procedure is performed at the hospital or your health care provider's office, you will most likely be given the opportunity to be present.
If you are not asked to be by your child's side and would like to be, ask your provider if this is possible. If you think you may become ill or anxious, consider keeping your distance, but remaining in your infant's line of vision. If you are not able to be present, leaving a familiar object with your infant may be comforting.
- Ask your provider to limit the number of strangers entering and leaving the room during the procedure, since this can raise anxiety.
- Ask that the provider who has spent the most time with your child perform the procedure.
- Ask that anesthetics be used where appropriate to reduce the level of discomfort your child will feel.
- Ask that painful procedures not be performed in the hospital crib, so that the infant does not come to associate pain with the crib. Many hospitals have special treatment rooms where procedures are performed.
- Imitate the behavior you or your health care provider need the infant to do, such as opening the mouth.
- Many children's hospitals have child life specialists who are specially trained to educate patients and families and advocate for them during procedures. Ask if one is available.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.