"This won't really hurt your baby."-- Lying to Parents or NOT

I had an important experience this week with a mom and her newborn who needed blood drawn.

The kind lab lady "reassured" mom and her older daughter that "this won't really hurt the baby. He will fuss because he doesn't like being held down." I then watched as the baby at first cried, then sent out major SOSs(Signs of Over-Stimulation) with rapid breathing and tremors, and then shut down TOTALLY. He went pale, limp, and his color was in between green and tan. The mother held the baby's other hand talking sweetly. The older sister looked on -- horrified. I could imagine her thinking, "I wonder what it feels like when it REALLY hurts?" I realized then, it was not ok to lie to families about the distress we cause their loved ones.

So I've been thinking about how to tell the truth. How does this sound? Next time I will say.

"We've talked for quite a while and you understand why we need to do this blood test. We will be an gentle as possible but this will hurt your baby like it would hurt you to have your blood drawn. Your baby will cry. Some babies have the capacity after crying to withdraw into a trance when they are over stressed. He may go from crying to looking really dazed and out of it. Afterwards it will take him a while to be himself again. For an hour or so he may be extra tired and not want to eat. But your love and attention will help him feel comforted again and show him you are always there for him no matter what."

What do you think about this explanation? Several NICU nurses are especially interested in how we might share SOS information with new parents. Telling the truth with kindness and support seems like a step in the right direction. Please contact me if you have experience or ideas which will help us share The HUG information with the vulnerable babies (and their parents) we serve.

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