Feeding sugar to newborn babies during painful hospital procedures may not relieve pain, according to a new study by researchers at the University of London, UK.

Babies in hospitals are routinely given sugar for procedures, such as taking blood samples, to lower pain levels.

The study included 59 newborn babies who received standard heel lance pricks to collect blood samples.

The researchers analysed the nerve activity in the pain centres of the babies’ brains and found that sugar did not work as a pain reliever during the procedure.

The study indicates that sugar may alter the babies’ facial expression, giving a false impression that the level of pain is lowered.