You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Help take the “ouch” out of vaccines

Shots are not fun for you or your child…here are some tips to help with the “ouch”!

Check ups with vaccinations are difficult for parents and children.  That first 2-month-old check up is often dreaded by parents because the first round of vaccines is given at that time.  It is very difficult for a Mommy and Daddy to see their precious baby “hurt” by a vaccine.  Some parents who choose to delay vaccines or actually refuse vaccines do so in part because of the discomfort vaccines cause.  Most of us thankfully have never seen the “discomfort” of many of the diseases that a vaccine prevents. I always tell parents that the discomfort and the risk of any side effect far outweigh the risk of the disease.  The vaccination causes discomfort, but discomfort for a purpose.

Often parents don’t realize how quickly an infant comforts after receiving a round of vaccines.  A study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in April of 2012 discussed the use of the 5S’s technique of shushing, swaddling, side positioning, sucking and swaying, from Dr. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block book.  Infants who were soothed using his technique after vaccines were calmed within about 45 seconds.  Surprisingly, babies self comforted without any help within 3 to 4 minutes.  So, worse case scenario for most infants is a period of crying of a couple of minutes after injections.

As a parent, most of us feel better when we have a plan to comfort our babies, toddlers, and even older children.  Here are a few age appropriate tips:

  • Prepare yourself before the appointment.  Every aged child will respond with an increase in anxiety if Mom and Dad are very anxious.  Bring someone with you for support if necessary.
  • Prepare your child.  Toddler aged children need an explanation immediately before the injection, older children should be prepared prior to the appointment.  Be honest about the “ouch”.
  • The use of swaddling, side positioning, swaying, shushing, and sucking has been proven to calm an infant quickly after vaccines.
  • Use of sugar has repeatedly been proven to help with pain relief for babies undergoing painful procedures.  Some providers will have a sugar solution you can dip a pacifier in prior to the injection.
  • Breastfeeding will calm a baby after routine injections.
  • Use distraction…it helps parents too!  Talk to your child, sing a song, count, say the ABC’s, talk about what you will do during the rest of the day.  A recent study showed that older children coached to try the “cough trick” during an injection experienced less pain.  Another technique that works is to have a child “blow” out a pretend candle during the injection, or “blow” their favorite color into the corners of the room.
  • Give an older child some sense of control. Explain what each injection is for and the reason it is needed.  The anticipation of a shot is much worse than the actual injection! Ask the child what distraction technique they would like to try, let them choose which arm to receive the injection if possible.  A sense of control decreases anxiety.
  • Try swabbing alcohol on the forearm of the opposite arm receiving the injection.  Have your child blow on that area during the injection. Our bodies can’t feel cold and pain at the same time, so the feeling of cold from the alcohol and blowing will decrease the pain of the injection.  This also will provide a distraction!

The fact is, that even with these techniques children and parents are usually anxious about vaccines and vaccines are uncomfortable.  However, the discomfort is very short-lived, children comfort quickly, and the benefit of protecting your child is priceless.  Don’t wait, vaccinate your child!  Share what techniques have worked for your child!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



  1. salina billington

    Thanks for these great ideas! I always hate seeing my kids “hurt” so I appreciate your suggestions.



  1. The 2013 Immunization Schedule is Out! Trust the Research and Don’t Wait, Vaccinate! « raisingkidswithlove

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