About two months ago, I had to take my 12-month-old son to a lab so they could draw blood for a lead test. It was a brutal experience for my son as well as for myself. Another dad in our NYC Dads Group had a similar and frustrating experience with his son. Therefore, I invited Scott M. to be our “guest blogger” this week to share his experience and help educate other dads (parents) about blood draws — Lance.
Unfortunately, one cannot go into a lab and expect the technician to draw blood from your child correctly. After a harrowing attempt at drawing blood from my 13-month-old baby, I quickly found that out the hard way. It’s hard to get a recommendation for a specific lab since it seems technicians move around constantly. After doing some research, I learned what I can do to make drawing blood easier for both the technician and my baby.
Know the procedure for pediatric blood draws
Newborns should get blood drawn from their heels. This was done on my son with no problems during the first week of his life. They pricked his heel and then collected the blood as it came out from the prick. Once your child starts standing, they develop thicker skin and calluses so the heel is no longer an option. Babies and children have smaller veins than adults. A butterfly needle makes the procedure of drawing blood more manageable because the needle is thinner to accommodate the smaller vein. It is common practice to use a butterfly needle as opposed to a small bore needle which is used for adults. As our new favorite technician said when I exclaimed approval at seeing a butterfly needle on the supply tray, “Of course, nothing but a butterfly needle for the little baby!”
Help your child help the technician
- Keep your baby hydrated, starting the day before the draw. Dehydration makes veins harder to find.
- Make sure your baby is relaxed and stress-free. Play soothing music on the way to the office, and give yourself plenty of time to make the appointment. There is usually a wait in many of these labs. A baby will pick up the signals from a stressed-out parent. Stress increases the blood flow and constricts the veins.
- During the blood draw, soothe your baby. Cuddle and sing favorite songs. Let your child how proud you are of him/her for being strong.
Our pediatric blood draw experience
Our first attempt at Quest Diagnostics at 314 W. 14th St. This is the type of place I imagine technicians will want to transfer away from ASAP, or the ones who are not trained for treating babies remain here. It is in the basement of a building, and they made no attempts to cover the fact — I half expected the boiler to be chugging away in the corner. The seat we sat in to get my son’s blood taken had ground-in dirt, and the location had an overall dirty feel to it. Samples were piled in an open box, and one technician told us to go to an already occupied cubicle to wait (the one out of two that are available). Our technician did not seem knowledgeable on how to take blood from a baby. She used a regular needle to make her attempts, and on the third try, she poked and prodded around under his skin with the needle, searching for the vein. The needle was visible from under his skin as she swiveled it back and forth looking for the vein. Needless to say, my son was wailing and I could barely contain my anger from the torture he was experiencing. I’m a fairly accommodating parent — I figure whatever I can handle, my baby can, as I usually watch the needles go in my arm when I need shots or blood taken. I don’t think I would be able to sit calmly as a technician takes a needle and pokes it in me, and then swivels it under my skin … much less a baby. Barely audible under my son’s cries were the technician’s instructions to come back another day. Like that would happen!
Consequently, we had a great neonatal/pediatric blood draw experience at the Quest Diagnostics my wife routinely uses at 115 E. 57th St. When you walk into this lab, there is a professional waiting room with equally trained and professional technicians. If I was a technician, I would want to work at this lab. My wife recognized two of the three present technicians. Therefore, I believe I can recommend this location since there seems to be some consistency. We were assigned to the one technician my wife didn’t recognize, but the technician was efficient and accommodating to my questions. She used the correct butterfly needle, prepped the bottles for collection, and had everything ready before making her attempt. She was able to get the needle into the vein on her first try and complete the two blood samples like a pro. My son was screaming, most likely from the memory of the last attempt at the other location & not from what this technician was doing, as he normally frets very little during his shots at his pediatrician’s office and is soothed easily. Immediately after the minor procedure, the other technician (who my wife believes is the head of this office) came in to check on us to make sure everything was OK. I profusely thanked them for the quick process of drawing blood … and let them know how bad our other experience was.
Tips for drawing blood from babies, children
During my research on neonatal and pediatric blood draws to educate myself before going back for round No. 2 of drawing blood from my child, I came across a few phlebotomy and venipuncture sites that provided useful information as to which size butterfly needle to use and such. This link to Dr. Greene’s site was very helpful with layman’s explanation and my basic guide for how to make blood draws easier for children.
These two links will inform you about the procedure for a heel stick sample:
- The Heel-Stick Test – WhatToExpect.com
- Pediatric Blood Specimens – University of California, San Francisco
Lastly, this link to a pdf file will inform you about the best way for medical professionals to take blood from babies through the veins.
I invite other parents who have suggestions, recommendations, or a story to share on the topic of pediatric blood draws …