Vaccination day – lessons learnt

Today is vaccination day. Don’t get me wrong – I sure am grateful that I live in a world where vaccinations are available. But, it is definitely not my favourite parenting responsibility of all time! 

The picture may be a little dark…but epitomizes how I feel when the doctor goes to stick a needle in my little girl.  Waaah. She always screams like a desperate pig. And breaks my heart with her sad hiccups and big “mama? why did you let them do this to me?” eyes. Kokoro ita-I!

Anyway, while I am by no means an expert on the topic yet, here are 5 tips I have found to be helpful for infant vaccinations, although I’m sure that my strategies might change for older babies/toddlers.

1) Consider the timing.

Pre-nap, post-nap, sleeping right up to jab time? I’ve tried all three! The first time, I actually managed to time it so she was napping in the front carrier right up until it was time for the shot, thinking that she is usually easiest to please right when she wakes up, and maybe she might even be too drowsy to really notice what is going on. Big mistake! Foolish really…in hindsight, I certainly wouldn’t react calmly if I was awakened only to be jabbed with an extremely sharp object by a stranger in a foreign environment…but hey..lesson learnt!

Of the other two options, I have actually found that as she has gotten older, it is good to go pre-nap time. It may seem counter-intuitive, and may not be the best for all babies, but LA gets soooo irritable and fussy after injections all the way until the next nap. If I can get her down to sleep pretty quickly afterwards, she seems to sleep it out and wakes up happy. But if she isn’t ready for a nap, I have one cranky and unhappy little girl to deal with until nap time.

2) Make sure baby is comfortable.

What is it with hospitals and doctor’s offices and cranking the heat waaaay up in the waiting room? I mean, I understand that they are full of sick people who need to stay warm, but for me, it usually a little over the top and the hot stuffy environment usually intensifies any headache or stuffy nose I may be suffering from.

After getting “the prick” LA is pretty irritable so I’ve learn to try to pre-empt anything else (other than the hot, searing pain in her arm and thigh) that might aggravate her. LA too, seems to get pretty cranky when she is hot and stuffy so I try to dress her in light layers that are I can redress her in afterwards with as little fuss as possible. Even better, are light, slightly oversized onesies that I can just yank down or up rather than taking off completely.

I also try to make sure her nappy is clean and her tummy is full come shot time.

3) Take charge.

The first time we went, I had no idea what to expect. Maybe I’m a bit of a wuss compared to most, but I was kind of shell shocked at LA’s reaction to her first shot – she made desparate noises I had never heard before! So I kind of sat back and let the nurse roughly and hurriedly dress her and talk to her and comfort her afterwards. But, of course, mum is the greatest comfort for any little baby, and despite her good intentions, I think the nurse kind of aggravated LA even more. Since then I’ve made sure to not let the nurse rush us into getting dressed, but to take my time to cuddle and soothe her first, then dress her when she has calmed down a little.

4) Hold her.

I’ve heard of babies being laid down on an examination table for injections, but that wasn’t an option offered to me. However, I can’t imagine that that would make the ordeal any less stressful for a little baby! I’ve found that holding/cuddling her as close as practically possible, as well as holding her eye contact, if possible, seems to help. The first time she was sat facing away from me, and, although of course it’s impossible to tell, I think it did make it more stressful for her.

5) Talk to her.

Again, the first time I went I was a little shell shocked afterwards and so didn’t really say anything to LA to comfort her afterwards. Since then, I’ve found that talking or singingto her just the way I do at home when she is crying (in silly voices, if need be!) helps distract her and forget the pain more quickly.

So, there you have it. Good luck – and remember that your little one won’t remember it…although you surely will!

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