BABIES of first-time mums express more pain during routine vaccinations than those of experienced mothers, according to North-East researchers.

The Durham University study suggests that first-time mothers' anxiety about the procedure has an effect on their babies.

The researchers say babies' early experience of pain shapes their response to painful events later in life so reduction of anxiety in both mother and baby is important.

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The findings could have implications for the number of children with incomplete immunisations and could therefore impose health risks to the child and society.

Fifty mothers and their two-month old babies were videotaped during their routine vaccinations.

Maternal touch and pain expression of the babies were analysed before, during and after the injections.

After the procedure, mothers were asked to estimate their baby's level of pain with most overestimating the extent of their baby's pain.

Contrary to findings from previous studies, results from this research showed that the mental health status of the mothers or the type of touch between mother and baby did not influence the level of pain shown by the child.

Lead researcher, Dr Nadja Reissland, said: "Most mothers tend to feel a bit apprehensive about taking their baby to their first immunisations but for first-time mums it is a bit more daunting. These results show that a mother's anxiety and distress is somehow 'felt' by the baby who in turn shows more pain.

"It is possible that first-time mothers get more stressed about taking their baby for their immunisations due to the unfamiliarity of the process, and how much pain they believe their babies are in could stop them from taking their babies for follow up vaccinations. This could result in children having incomplete immunisations."

In the UK babies receive their first vaccinations at two months of age.