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Immunizations 101: Baby’s First Shots

Taking your precious little one in for their first round of immunizations is no picnic. And for many parents, it takes several years before their child begins feeling less anxious about these particular trips to see the pediatrician. There may be tears, sweating, nervousness, fidgeting, or a spike in blood pressure every time the exam room door opens. It’s pretty stressful for the kids, too.

I will never forget the day I took my now 5-year-old to get her first shots. The nurse assured me they do this all day and have it down to an art. They took a rapid-fire approach, one after another, so before my daughters eyes could even widen in parent-guilt-inducing shock, she had a glittery purple adhesive bandage on her chubby baby leg. I had heard another brand-new baby shriek bloody murder just moments before it was our turn, and had braced myself for the worst.

It’s only fitting (ahem, karma) that my kiddo did it backwards. Easy peasy as a brand new baby, but at ages 3 and 4 when I could reason with her and explain it was medicine? Nope, not my sassy little miss. Around age 3 she actually swatted at the syringe while the needle was IN HER ARM. Definitely not my favorite day. So because every child will differ, how you prepare as a parent is key.

Sean Elliott, MD, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Banner – University Medical Centers Tucson and South, fully supports this preparation.

“As a parent, I know it is really rough seeing and hearing your child undergo these immunizations. However, as a doctor who sees children suffering from vaccine-preventable infections, I absolutely recommend protecting our children from these infections by vaccination,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have put together a handy guide, 9 Things to Make Shots Less Stressful…For You and Your Baby. It includes suggestions ranging from distraction methods to honesty and after care.

A few additional suggestions from parents who have been there:

Read. All. Of. The. Things.

There’s an ocean’s worth of educational materials out there about immunizations. The CDC’s website is a great place to start. You can also ask your child’s pediatrician for any material they have so you can read up and be prepared. The more you know, the easier this will be for you and your child. If you have heard conflicting facts from friends or family, your best bet is to read up for yourself.

Protection is paramount

I don’t know any parents that wouldn’t completely shield their children from all known and unknown illnesses if it were scientifically possible. While that might not be plausible quite yet, ensuring they are properly vaccinated is a powerful tool in that arena. It may pain you to see your baby cry after they receive shots, but not doing so can be downright dangerous.

“As medical science has improved, our ability to prevent many infections through vaccination has created a lack of awareness of the horror of these infections,” Dr. Elliott explains. “Children can die from infections such as meningitis, whooping cough and measles, and even the survivors live with life-long, painful reminders of their infection. A decision to vaccinate our children is a decision to help prevent them from experiencing these dangers.”

Don’t fear being “that parent”

If you are feeling anxious about your child getting their shots, chances are, they will too. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your child’s pediatrician or nursing staff. You will not be the world’s most obnoxious parent. And, even if you are, it’s all about being comfortable and prepared.

If you’re breastfeeding and would like to nurse your child after their shots to help soothe them by all means do it.

If you get home and your child is showing any abnormal behavior, call the doctor’s office right away rather than sitting and fretting unnecessarily. According to Dr. Elliott, it is quite common for children to experience mild fever and vaccination-site pain after their immunizations. However, severe reactions are incredibly rare. He encourages parents to call their child’s doctor with any concerns, so that they can avoid unnecessary fear and anxiety.

Children's Health Parenting Immunizations