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How do I help baby cope with shots?
Q: My daughter will be going to get her first shots. What's the best way to make her feel safe, and not be in so much pain from the needles?
A: Dawn, the first shots sometimes bring out as many tears from parents as babies. But rest assured, you're doing the right thing by getting your baby immunized to protect her from many serious illnesses.

It's recommended that babies get immunized against 14 diseases: hepatitis A and B, haemophilus influenza type B, polio, diptheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, pneumococcus, rotavirus, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella (german measles) and varicella (chicken pox). In many cases, several vaccines are combined into a single shot. Children need to get shots and boosters at birth and at 2, 4, 6, and 12 to18 months of age; and then before kindergarten at 4 to 6 years of age.

Babies are often given several different shots at each medical visit. The shots do hurt a little, but only for a few seconds. Your baby might cry for a minute or so. Here are some tips for making making her more comfortable:
  • Consider giving her a pacifier. Studies have shown that sucking on a pacifier can distract babies from painful sensations and give them a way to comfort themselves.
  • Talk to your baby in a soothing voice when she's getting the shots. You may also try to distract her with a toy.
  • Hold and comfort her immediately after the shots.

Here are some tips for helping a toddler or older child feel more comfortable with shots:
  • Explain in advance that she'll get a shot and why it's important to protect her from getting sick.
  • Be honest that the shot will hurt a little, but you'll help her.
  • Let her practice giving a pretend shot to you or a doll.
  • Allow her to choose which arm to get the shot in and to open the bandage.
  • Help her relax or distract her during the shot by blowing, counting or singing.
  • Praise her and comfort her immediately afterwards.
  • Consider giving her a little reward for cooperating.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician