Did you know that fear of the needles is the most common reason why many parents deny vaccination for their babies? It’s certainly a painful ordeal, but unavoidable nevertheless.
The first 3 vaccines given after birth, at one month apart are really painful as it is an intramuscular injection. Thighs of babies are the site of vaccine administration for these vaccines and the compliance is generally good. Babies cry, they may develop a fever or even a soreness at the injection site, but it subsides eventually.
It has been found that the most commonly skipped vaccine is the one given at the age of one and half years, why? Because, by that age the baby will start walking, running and after the vaccination, which is given at the thighs, they’ll find some difficulty in walking and even standing. That makes it one of the most feared vaccination among all parents. Today, my son got his pentavalent booster dose and I was preparing for the shot by browsing for some additional tips to reduce his post vaccination pain and came across this beautiful video in youtube.
Must Read: Free vaccination programme in India
Watch the video below and if you don’t want to buffer this video, I’ve summarised the steps to reduce the pain for your baby’s next vaccination.
15 to 20 needle shots in the first 18 months of life, ooh poor baby, that’s too much and absolutely necessary as vaccinations are an important part of every baby’s good health. So here are some easy ways to soothe the pain related to each of these injections, which can be comforting for your baby and really helpful for you!
#1 Topical Anaesthetics
Literally they are compounds that can be applied to the baby’s skin where the needle enters their body with an aim to reduce the pain. Topical anaesthetics are used all over the world in all hospitals for various medical as well as surgical procedures. They are available as creams, gels, ointments, solutions, drops and even patches. Here is list of popular topical anaesthetics that are available in India. As these medicines can be bought from a local medical shop without a prescription, it’ll be pretty easy to get your hands on any one of them. Apply a generous (size of a coin) amount on a piece of cotton and use a bandage to secure the patch at the site where the needle is going to be injected. Most of these anaesthetics work in 30 to 60 minutes and thus need to be applied at the injection site well in advance. Note the time of application of the anaesthetic if needed.
In case of babies below the age of 2 years, intramuscular injections are usually given at the outer side of their left thigh. Ask your doctor on the number of vaccines that are scheduled for the given day and prepare two such areas on each thigh if necessary.
The patch or dressing with the anaesthetic is removed at the vaccination centre provided that sufficient time has been given for the topical medicine to work. Take care while removing the patch or dressing as it could be uncomfortable if done erratically. The healthcare worker, (junior public health nurse) will wipe the area clear with a clean and sterile cotton before singing the injection.
#2 Breast feeding
This is by far the most commonly used technique to reduce your baby’s pain during and immediately after vaccination. Your baby will fell safe and comfortable in your arms, and the sweetness of breast milk along with the sucking reflexes makes breast feeding one of the best and easy way to help your baby go through vaccination process. Expose your baby’s arms and or thighs before you start breast feeding. The vaccination can be given one or two minutes into a proper feeding session and continue the feeding for a few minutes after the injection.
There is no evidence that babies will choke or gag when the injection is given during the feeding. All the vaccination rooms in India, even at government hospitals are baby-friendly and have a nursing area built-in.
#3 Sugar Water Solution
Mix one teaspoon of white sugar in two teaspoons of boiled and cooled drinking water and you have your own sugar water solution! Many studies have shown that sugar water reduces pain in babies. How exactly it works is not so clear though! It can be used even in newborns.
Apply one or two drops of sugar water with a dropper to the inner side of your baby’s cheek one or two minutes before giving the vaccination. You can also use a pacifier soaked in sugar water if your baby is used to pacifiers. Do keep in mind that the sugar solution should only be used as a medicine and not as a baby food!
#4 Positioning your Baby
Hold your baby in the position that you’re most comfortable. It could be in the breast feeding position, your baby facing you or baby sitting in your lap. Make sure to expose the arms and or things before positioning for the needle.
Never leave your baby alone on the examination table on their back for injection as this can make them afraid and distressed thereby increasing the pain. This is practised in many private hospitals and has even happened to me when we visited a popular hospital in our town for our son’s second pentavalent vaccination. Entry was restricted to ladies and when my wife returned from the vaccination room with my son sobbing in her arms. He was crying even after we reached home and when I enquired about the position in which he was given the vaccination, I too felt the fear that my son had experienced!
Watch the video above for some great positions to hold your baby while vaccination and if you’re anxious, take a deep breathe holding your baby close to your tummy so that you and your baby can both relax.
I have many friends who are paediatricians too and they recommend giving drops or syrup of paracetamol to babies after vaccination. It not only reduces the mild rise in their body temperature, but can also help reduce the pain after getting the needle. Mothers often ask for paracetamol after giving the vaccination because they too know that it does help! For babies younger than one year, drops are recommended instead of syrup.
I’m expecting some comments on this tip as some doctors are have a different opinion!
#6 Distracting your Baby
You should be calm, positive and be there for your baby. Distracting your baby post vaccination by singing, offering their favourite toy, giving sugar solution, by breast feeding can be helpful in reducing the pain. If they are not ready to be distracted, just cuddle for a few more minutes and try again. At least one parent should be there with the baby for vaccinations. Don’t send the baby’s grandparents instead of you simply because of the reason that you’re afraid of needles!
For better results in reducing the pain, use a combination of the above mentioned steps. Keep in mind that all babies are different and they respond to needles in different ways. Vaccinations is your child’s right and if you can make your child’s next vaccination visit a mildly painless one by applying the above steps, I’ll be more than happy.