Infant Emotional Disturbance as Early as PKU
“Waaaaaaaaaah!” my newborn screamed when the nurse poked her heel. And “waaaaaaaaaaaah!” she continued, even thirty minutes later.
Seeing the trauma of the event etching itself across my face, the nurse assured me: “Don’t worry. She doesn’t feel it, and what little she might feel, she will never remember.”
I would have bet good money that PKU tests on the tender heels of newborn babies are the first of many painful childhood experiences that cause emotional and psychological trauma. And first vaccinations, and circumcisions for baby boys too, only add further insult to injury.
Researchers at Britain’s Oxford University, as far back as 2015, concluded that even as early as a day old, a baby’s pain receptors not only begin processing the physical pain they experience but the resulting emotional distress as well.
A baby’s cry, or in the above case, a baby’s scream, is a very natural response to pain, especially intense pain. It’s not just an automatic muscle reaction to the physical harm, it’s also psychological. And any such reaction that is prolonged, in my estimation, has essentially moved up to “trauma” status.
Babies do indeed feel physical and emotional pain, researchers now admit. And psychologically, they more than remember it. It shocks and traumatizes them, and may well delay their natural development for long periods of time on into childhood.
Researchers say that not only can natural emotional growth be disrupted, but such childhood trauma can increase the risk of succumbing even more to future potential traumatizations. If not handled properly in these earliest instances of pain, many children may actually become less able to deal effectively with other common childhood pains, not to mention bigger-baggage type experiences like violent action or disasters.
University of Michigan
However, before it can be determined how such can be best handled, it must first be acknowledged that such routine procedures, like PKU tests, vaccinations and circumcision, no matter how necessary or well-intentioned, can and do cause emotional as well as physical pain for babies, and thereby resulting trauma as well.
“Even premature babies can feel pain,” say researchers at the University of Michigan School of Medicine. “Pain affects their nervous systems in many ways…Pain can cause medical complications, and problems with sleep, feeding, and self-regulation. It can also make kids hypersensitive or insensitive to pain later in life, or lead to chronic pain and other problems later on.”``
So what can be done to help babies more appropriately deal with these early experiences of great pain, both physically and emotionally?
Holding your child when in pain is a no-brainer. Distracting them with movement, music, toys, or singing often does the trick. Nursing may be appropriate and effective. And talking to them in a calm and assuring manner may pay dividends down the road too.
Wake up world! Everyone associated with bringing children into this world, if there is physical pain, and if there is any chance that fear of the unexpected can result, trauma happens…and you are most definitely going to have a problem if such experiences are ignored and not dealt with in a positive and intentional manner.