Research News

Routine suction of newborns is unnecessary

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 12 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3690

Healthy newborn babies don’t need suction of the nose and mouth at birth, say researchers. A gentle wipe with a towel worked just as well in a trial from the US that tracked respiratory rate for 24 hours. Babies who were sucked out with a bulb syringe just after the cord was cut had a mean respiratory rate of 50 breaths/min. Babies treated with a gentle wipe of the nose and mouth area instead had a mean respiratory rate of 51 breaths/min (difference 1 breath/min, 95% CI −2 to 0). The trial was designed to test the equivalence of the two interventions. Babies born “non-vigorous” with meconium stained liquor were excluded.

Apgar scores, oxygen saturations at discharge, and incidence of tachypnoea were also comparable between the two groups. Fewer babies who were sucked out needed admission to a neonatal intensive care unit (18% (45/246) v 12% (30/242); relative risk 1.5, 95% CI 0.96 to 2.30), but the difference wasn’t significant and this result may be insecure due to lack of power, say the authors.

International guidelines still disagree about the need for routine suction at birth, they write, and the practice remains widespread. Simple wiping of the nose and mouth is a reasonable alternative for babies born in hospital at or beyond 35 weeks’ gestation.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;236:f3690