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Paul Horowitz, MD

Helping Baby Through Vaccinations?

Baby’s getting his first set of immunizations soon, and I’m a little freaked out about it. How can I help him get through the shots?

The very thought of purposely inflicting pain on your innocent little baby is enough to give even a cool-as-a-cuke parent an anxiety attack, so we get where you’re coming from, mama. But there are some things you can do to help both of you get through vaccinations as painlessly as possible

Breastfeed baby. You can nurse baby right after he gets his vaccines — or even while he’s getting them. As you probably already know, nursing is comforting for baby. It’s been shown to reduce crying for babies six months old and younger who are getting shots.

Research the vaccines baby’s getting. Once you’ve looked into the shots baby’s receiving and why, you’ll have a firm grasp on just which diseases you’ll be preventing. And that may make you more confident and at ease with your decision to have these  vaccines done.

Try to relax. It’s true that a baby can sense your energy and anxiety, so take a deep breath, remember why you’re there and talk to baby in a calm and soothing voice. Keep it together, mama!

Ask for the combo. In some cases, several vaccinations can be administered together in one shot. If so, you can reduce the number of injections baby gets in one visit by asking for the combination shot.

Schedule a morning appointment. For most babies, this is the time of day they’re more rested and less likely to be in a bad mood (and actually, you’ll probably feel fresher and less likely to be in a bad mood, too).

Give baby a dose of Tylenol. No, we’re not saying to automatically give baby  acetaminophen — it actually might slightly reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines. But if baby is especially uncomfortable afterward or develops a  fever or localized pain, talk to his pediatrician to see if giving a mild pain reliever is appropriate.

Use the art of distraction. This tip will help when baby’s a little older: There’s usually a several-second delay from when the injection happens to when pain sets in. During those moments, suddenly applaud and loudly encourage him with a supportive comment, like “You did so great!” or “I love you so much!” or even, “Your body is getting stronger every day!” Sometimes babies and kids are so stunned — and proud — that they quickly forget about the discomfort. Some families even sing or play music right after vaccines to take the child’s mind off what’s going on.

Don’t inject and run. Some babies and kids associate going to the pediatrician with the pain of getting shots. To get baby used to being at the doctor’s office, stop by sometime when it’s not related to vaccinations. Or, after the shots, give him time to calm down and relax. That way, he’ll leave feeling more positive thoughts about his doctor. And that can make next time less tense.

Plus, More from The Bump:

Vaccine Tracker

Modified Immunization Schedule?

Baby Symptoms and Conditions Guide