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Parental guidance: Tips for drawing blood from infants

Can you offer tips for when a baby needs to have blood drawn?

“Typically it’s more difficult to find a vein in a baby,” says Steven Vassallo, operations manager for the laboratory outreach program at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson and a phlebotomist for more than 20 years. “In adults, you hold an arm out and the vein is there, pushed up by muscle. They’re a little deeper in children.”

So he suggests the following:

n Call ahead and inform the lab you’ll be coming. Ask for the most experienced phlebotomist — he recommends that the person have at least two years experience drawing blood from babies and children. If the baby has had blood drawn previously, inform the lab of any issues that arose.

n Ask if additional help is available. Often the lab will have a second phlebotomist hold a baby’s arm. Babies don’t understand, “Keep your arm still.”

n Schedule the appointment for the time of day the baby is rested, not cranky and tired.

n Ideally, a parent should hold the baby on his or her lap. “You don’t want to restrain them too much because that bothers them as well, sometimes more than the actual blood draw,” Vassallo says.

n Distraction is ideal — a parent can sing to the baby, bring a favorite stuffed toy or show a cellphone video. If the baby uses a pacifier, bring it.

n If you want to use a numbing cream on the baby, you probably need to discuss that with your doctor before the appointment. Vassallo’s lab, for instance, doesn’t have it available.

n If the baby is really upset, consider coming back at another time. And don’t be surprised if the baby goes to sleep right after the test. “They generally do,” Vassallo says.


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