10 Tips for managing baby’s pain through first vaccinations
Today was Nathan’s 9th month appointment, the ‘shot- day’. My little guy braved a lot today. He had his first blood test, that is supposed to be done to all babies his age. And then he had a vaccination. It hurts even while typing this. There were too many tears.. his and mine (not in front of him). He held me tight and looked at me with terror all over his face and teary eyes and screaming as if asking me to save him from whatever was being done to him. And I stood there holding him as helpless as him. I told him that this is for his good but I knew that wouldn’t lessen his pain. I am so thankful to my husband who held me and him keeping a calm on his face while his heart was racing as much as our’s. We sang to him, a lot of bingo was his name-o and wheels on the bus. We danced with him when we were alone in the room. We gave him his favorite toys.But nothing was soothing my little boy’s pain. On our way back we bought some new toys and books for him. But he is so innocent that after a short nap in his car seat he completely forgot about it.
Maybe motherhood is having the same delivery like pain and hurt every time something happens to your baby.. only the other times it is in the heart.
There are few things that we have been trying in all these shot- day appointments so far. Each time a different thing has worked for us. Here are a few tips from my experience that would come in handy when you are handling those tears with a stabbing pain in your heart.
1. Keep calm and stay composed: I cannot stress enough how important this is! Babies read your body language. Any panic or stress on your face, especially mother’s, will send anxiety alarms to your baby, even if he doesn’t know or understand what is about to happen. Seeing your baby in pain is going to hurt you and I cried, hiding my tears from him. The first one was the worst. I couldn’t keep my tears under control. I had never seen him cry buckets and that loud. He was 2 months old. Such a small bubba and he was poked thrice!! But that’s when I learned how my behavior was causing him more anxiety. At 9 month’s appointment, he recognizes more, his stranger anxiety is already at peek. So I knew I had to stay strong. But that blood test, God, it threw stones at me and I had to keep my face straight and cheerful. And that’s why I would suggest you tip #2.
2.Support system: We never go single on the shot- day. It has to be both me and my husband. So that we can both help each other emotionally and take better care of the baby. It also helps if one of us can hold him and one could be near his face whispering some good calming voice in his ear. If not your partner, take someone who is close to your baby and knows him well to the doctor’s appointment with you for some extra help.
3. Hold your baby: It is more comforting for baby to be in your arms or lap while getting the shot. Sometimes it’s not possible if the baby is moving too much. In that case the nurse would lay him down on the table hold his legs and give the shot one after the other. This happened in our case, every time. While it is more convenient for them to give shots this way, I felt it was safe too. Who knows when the baby might move? The nurses there are professional and know their job well. So I find it better this way. And after she is done, we hold our baby.
4. Swaddle the baby: If the baby is small, swaddling him might give some comfort. Although I never did this, I have seen some Moms doing it. It really depends on what your baby likes. My baby would just stick to me, hug me tight and shed those tears before I did #5.
5. Feed the baby or let the baby suck: This really really works. I breastfeed my baby right after #4 in the room. His pediatrician’s clinic is pretty nice about it. They leave the room saying, take all the time you need. So I breastfeed him till he finds comfort and stops crying. If you are not comfortable breastfeeding, let him suck on the pacifier and hold him close to you. That sucking will eventually soothe his pain. If it is his time to have milk, even giving a bottle and holding him close will work.
6. Ways to reduce soreness: If the baby is still cranky from the pain, try putting a clean and cool washcloth on the vaccinated area for cool compress. It may reduce the soreness and give some relief to the baby. Do ask the doctor about it and other ways to reduce the soreness. In our case, one time we used a cool compress but usually the pain goes away by itself. My baby is somewhat less active after the vaccination for a few hours and wouldn’t let go off me and sticks to me tight. But that is okay with me as I need that too after his shot. Just do what he wants to do and follow where he leads.
7. Use distractions: That’s what we did on our appointment today. We danced, sang, gave him his favorite toys. But when all of that failed we took him to the store. He loved watching around and we bought some new toys and books for him. And on our way back he fell asleep in the car. When he woke up, he had completely forgotten about the blood test and the shot. Although he was a bit down on his energy level for a few hours. But he had stopped crying. Other distractions that you may try could be going to a park or a mall where baby can see other kids or activities, invite some friends with babies over and watch them play together, create a soothing atmosphere at home, play some baby songs on TV and watch together. Use any distraction techniques that works for your baby, but keep him close to you, shower some extra love on him, make his favorite baby food, keep the happy and calm tone of the home running.
8. Do everything else before shots: We usually interact with doctor and ask all our questions before the shots. We make sure the doctor does the routine check up of the baby before vaccinations. It helps getting everything else done before it all begins. It also makes the baby more familiar to the doctor/ nurse and the room and becomes more comfortable.
9. Let baby be: Just let him be for that day. Sure you will be exhausted too, but just do what baby wants to do. If he just wants to stick to you and watch TV, let him be. Everything else can wait. Call it a pizza night! Give him the time he needs to stop crying or stop being cranky or to recover. Every baby has his own way of dealing with stress, hurt and pain.
10. Make everything comfortable: Put him in his most comfortable and loose clothes. Keep temperature adjusted to his preference. Keep volumes low if he enjoys some quit time. A positive atmosphere creates healthy vibes.
I hope you find a way to soothe your baby. As a first time mom myself, I know how it feels to see your baby in pain that these vaccines cause. However, they are so vital for their health and development.
Above everything else Mama, taking care of yourself and making sure you are fine, will be the biggest help you can offer to your little one to start with. So stay cool Mamas, all of this is for our baby’s good!
**This article is based on my personal experiences and should not be considered a medical advice in any case. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.