A Need-to-Know Guide to Baby’s First Vaccines

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Vaccinations can be stressful for babies—and even harder on new parents. Get the scoop about what to expect before, during and after these visits with the doctor.

Many new parents worry about vaccinating their babies, and concerns can range from the sting of the needle to the threat of adverse reactions. The good news? There are things you can do to make vaccinations less upsetting, and vaccine reactions are usually very mild.

The Office Visit

One of the best — and often hardest — ways you can ease baby’s stress is to stay calm. A 2014 study published in Psychological Science found that stress is essentially contagious. Even infants can sense when their moms are feeling stressed and become upset themselves as a result. Take a deep breath, and focus on the fact that vaccines help set the stage for a lifetime of wellness.

During the appointment, distraction is key. A 2012 study published in Pediatrics outlines an approach known as the “5 S’s” — swaddling, sucking, swinging, shushing and side positioning — that may ease pain in babies ages 4 months and younger. Ask your child’s doctor if you can breastfeed or give your baby a bottle while the vaccines are administered. As soon as the shots are complete, swaddle your little one, gently swing her back and forth, or speak to her in a quiet, comforting tone.

As baby gets older and becomes more mobile, let your little one sit in your lap with a favorite toy or stuffed animal.

Once You Get Home

After getting immunized, your baby may seem sleepier or fussier than usual, have a decreased appetite, and/or have mild soreness or swelling near the injection site. Some little ones even run a low-grade fever. Signs of more serious reactions include nonstop crying that lasts for at least three hours, a high fever that exceeds 102.2 degrees, hives and wheezing.

If you have doubts about whether a symptom warrants concern, call your child’s doctor. If your baby has a high fever, a seizure or seems to be having difficulty catching her breath, take her to the emergency department or call 911.

Immunizations From Birth to One Year

Take a look at which vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends during baby’s first year:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP)—Babies receive this vaccine during 2-, 4-, and 6-month well visits.

  • Hepatitis B—This vaccine is administered at birth, between the first and second months of age, and again between ages 6 and18 months.

  • Polio—Expect baby to receive a polio vaccine at 2- and 4-month visits, as well as between 6 and 18 months.

  • Haemophilus influenza (Hib)—Depending on the vaccine your physician uses, your baby may receive this injection at 2, 4, 6 and 12 to 15 months.

  • Pneumococcal vaccine—Babies receive this vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months.

  • Rotavirus—This two-dose vaccine is administered at 2 and 4 months of age.

  • Influenza (the flu)—Everyone over the age of 6 months needs an annual flu shot. The first time your baby receives the vaccine, he will get two doses that are spread one month apart.

Keep in mind this schedule isn’t for everyone. Depending on your child’s health needs, his physician may recommend administering additional vaccines or making other adjustments to this schedule. Many of these vaccines will also require boosters during the toddler and childhood years.

Did You Know?

> Fewer than one in 1 million babies experiences a severe vaccine reaction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

> Before vaccines became commonplace, 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria and 15,000 were paralyzed because of polio every year.

> Most babies receive multiple doses of as many as seven different vaccines before their first birthday.

Schedule doctor visits for your child online at EvanstonAnytime.com! Day or night, schedule appointments for next day and beyond with pediatricians Alan Brown, M.D., or Bird Gilmartin, M.D., here.

Drs. Brown and Gilmartin are members of the medical staff at Evanston Regional Hospital.