Q: Will vaccines hurt my baby?
A: We won't lie: Shots can be pretty uncomfortable for your baby, but most pediatricians and their nurses have tips and tricks for keeping the pain to a minimum, and it usually lasts only for a few seconds. It's natural to want to protect your child from any suffering, and the best way to do that is to follow the instructions from your pediatrician or nurse on how to hold your child during the shots and how to comfort her afterward. Here are some ways to help ease your baby's pain:
- Some pediatricians suggest giving your child a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the beginning of the visit (it takes at least 30 minutes for pain medicine to work). This can help with the pain or slight fever (up to 101 degrees F.) that some babies experience afterward. - Breastfeed your baby during the shot, or dip her pacifier in some sugar water. Research shows the sweet taste can minimize the discomfort. Or ask if you can remain in the exam room (or go to another available space) for a few minutes afterward to nurse your baby, which should calm her right down and may even lull her to sleep. - Distract your baby with her favorite lovey or book. - Try to make eye contact with your baby during the shot. Smile and talk to her reassuringly. - Stay calm yourself: If you're wound up, your baby may sense it. It can be tough to see your child in pain, but know that it's temporary, and your baby will be back to her bubbly self in no time. - After the shot, hold your baby for a while instead of putting her right back into her stroller or car seat and dashing out the door. A few minutes in Mommy's arms usually does the trick for most babies. - Don't make big plans on the same day as the shots in case your child doesn't feel up to it.
Don't be surprised if your baby cries very loudly and seems fussy, clingy, or sleepy for a while afterward -- after all, getting pricked is a total shock for her teeny body.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2005. Updated 2009.