Comforting your child during a medical procedure

April 29, 2016

Going to the doctor’s office can be scary for your child. But there are ways you can support your child during a stressful visit without holding him or her down for a procedure. With some planning and help from you, your child’s appointment can go a little smoother.

“Comfort positioning,” also called “positioning for comfort,” can help you support your child during many procedures, including:

  • A blood draw
  • Inserting an IV
  • Inserting a catheter
  • Treating a laceration
  • Immunizations

The Child Life Specialist Team at Swedish created a series of images to show parents various comfort positions that they can use to help a child through a procedure. We are sharing them here.

Child’s back to caregiver’s stomach/chest

  • The child’s head is controlled on the chest of the caregiver (the parent or adult accompanying the child.)
  • If needed, the caregiver can cross one or both legs over the child.
  • The caregiver’s arms can be in a hugging embrace.
  • An arm is controlled and isolated for a nurse to perform the procedure.
  • The child has the ability to engage with a toy or book for distraction.
Demonstration: Comforting a child during a medical procedure - child's back to a caregiver's stomach/chest.

Child’s stomach to caregiver’s stomach on a chair

  • The caregiver holds the child in a hugging embrace.
  • The child’s legs straddle the caregiver.
  • One of the child’s arms is on a stable surface, in this case a bed.
  • The child has the option of watching the needle poke or looking away at something that distracts them.
Demonstration: Comforting a child during a medical procedure - child's stomach to the caregiver's stomach, on a chair.

Child’s stomach to caregiver’s stomach on a bed

  • The child’s legs straddle the caregiver.
  • The caregiver supports the child.
  • In this position, the child feels less restrained.
  • The caregiver holds the child in a hugging embrace.
  • The child has the option of watching the needle poke or looking away at something that distracts them.
Demonstration: Comforting a child during a medical procedure - child's stomach to a caregiver's stomach, on a bed.

Catheter placement

  • The caregiver holds the child’s head on his or her lap.
  • The child cannot scoot upward, a normal response to having a catheter placed.
  • A distraction item can be used as a barrier between the child and the catheter.
Demonstration: Comforting a child during a medical procedure - placing a catheter.

Tips for successful comfort positioning

  • If you are the caregiver, make sure you are comfortable participating during the procedure.
  • Ask your child before starting if he or she wants to watch or look away.
  • Make sure something to distract your child is available during the procedure. A favorite toy, music, iPad or an “I Spy” book are examples of what would work well.
  • Allowing your child one free hand provides a sense of control and the ability to use the distraction item, but make sure that free hand doesn’t touch or reach for items medical team members may have in their hands.
  • If your child has anxiety about pain, there are topical medications that can help. Although your Swedish health care provider has been trained to make all procedures as pain-free as possible, we recommend you ask your nurse or doctor during the check-in process whether there are any medications that could be used to make the procedure more comfortable.

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s next visit, call your child’s provider at 206-215-2700.

Topics: Kids