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Ask the Experts: Providing comfort during shots Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts: Providing comfort during shots

My baby is due for her first round of shots soon, and I’m a nervous wreck. How can I make my little one as comfortable as possible both during and after the appointment?

A: Before heading to the appointment, calm your nerves by making a list of the questions you have. Perhaps you have specific questions about the shots, but you’re also wondering about development, sleep or nutrition. Bring this list with you to the appointment, so the pediatrician can address any concerns.

Vaccines are usually given at the end of the checkup. Avoid breast- or bottle-feeding while your baby is receiving his shots, and instead try using distraction techniques such as cooing, smiling and speaking reassuring words to your little one. Keeping the atmosphere as positive as possible will help both you and your baby.

After the vaccines are given, feel free to console your baby in the manner you normally would. Nursing or feeding on site is often a comfort to little ones, if it’s an option at your provider’s office.

Once home, some babies may become fussy after a couple of hours. A soothing bath can be a helpful way to calm them. You may also notice some redness at the site of the vaccines. Try applying a cool compress several times a day to reduce soreness. You can expect redness to resolve in a couple of days.

Your baby may also sleep more the day of the shots, as well as the following day. These are normal and mild side effects of injections and by no means indicate an adverse reaction.

You may have heard of babies developing fevers following their shots. It is possible that your little one may develop a fever within one or two days of this first set of vaccines, but keep in mind that a low-grade fever is considered normal and a good response of the immune system to the vaccines. However, if your baby’s temperature is above 102 degrees Fahrenheit and you have received the OK from your pediatrician, you can give her a dose of acetaminophen to relieve some of the discomfort. If your baby cries excessively (more than three hours), contact your pediatrician immediately.

Take heart: Many babies breeze right through their visits and never experience any further discomfort with their vaccines. These checkups are usually fun for both the parent and the health care provider because they are an opportunity to see how your baby is growing. Enjoy your new little one, and rest assured that, though nerve-wracking, vaccines provide safe and effective immunity against illnesses.

—Chrystal De Freitas, MD, founder of Carmel Valley Pediatrics in San Diego and author of Jake’s Kindergarten Checkup