Infant vaccinations don’t have to be painful

I often wonder with infant vaccinations, is it harder on the parent or on the baby? Do you find yourself getting so worked up, even stressed out for your baby’s vaccinations? No one likes the idea of inflicting pain on their small, helpless baby. But there’s good news: research has shown there really are ways to make vaccinations much less painful and even pain-free for babies.

Here’s how:

  • Mother is breast feeding for her babyBreastfeed if at all possible before, during, and after the vaccinations. You may need to switch sides if your baby is receiving more than one vaccination. Breastfeeding and being so close, even skin-to-skin with Mom is the best cure-all for babies.
  • If, for whatever reason, breastfeeding is not possible, you can try one or more of these other options:
    • Try using Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s for soothing babies: Let your baby suck on something – your clean finger works well; swaddle your baby up in a blanket with one leg out to keep him feeling contained and secure; hold your baby close to you and hold her so she is side-laying; make shushing sounds (say shhhhh near his ear), and sway or swing with your baby once the vaccination is over.
    • Find other ways to distract your older baby. Bring objects that she will delight in and be captivated by. Try crinkling paper and letting your baby rip up the paper. Put on a finger puppet show and sing a familiar song. Or cuddle with him face-to-face with you. Eye contact with one of the people they love the most in the whole wide world is a great distraction. Just be sure to watch your own expression! Babies often mirror the emotions you are feeling so be sure your face looks calm and comforting.
    • Before the vaccination, ask your doctor about other pain-relieving options, such as giving your baby a sugar-water solution (when breastfeeding is not an option), or using an Emla patch on the vaccination site.

Take deep breaths yourself before and during the vaccinations. Tension and stress is very easily transferred from parent to baby. Keeping yourself calm and collected will help your baby see there is nothing to be concerned about. Research has proven that when we are stressed and anticipate the sensation of pain, we feel much more pain. Lamaze and other forms of gentle birthing preparations are based on this research.

I’m thankful I was able to nurse my Pumpkin for all of her infant vaccinations. For most of her shots, she would pause when she felt the injection, and then would continue to nurse. The worst reaction I ever saw out of her was when she popped off, let out an angry cry at the nurse, looked at me and then went back to feeding. I figured she was angrier at the rude interruption with her feeding than any pain she may have felt!  To her, vaccinations weren’t a big deal, and her Dad and I feel good knowing she has protection against many diseases.

How did your baby’s vaccinations go? We love to hear from you, there are many ways you can connect with us:

  • Leave us a comment below
  • Tweet with us @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you'll find me on Facebook, Twitter and on this blog, writing about all things parenting. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to write about! :)
This entry was posted in Babies, Breastfeeding Your Baby, Keeping Your Baby Safe, Parenting, Parenting Your Baby and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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