It's hard to believe it, but you're in the home stretch! The only vaccinations you can expect between 6 and 9 months are the Hep B and IPV shots, a blessed relief after the vaccination marathons your babe endured during the first six months of life. Still, if you haven't kept up to date with your baby's shots, you might have to get a few supplemental and booster shots to fill in the gaps, so stick to the recommended schedule.
Of course, here's the caveat: While you'll only have to endure one or two shots during this age, your little one's getting older, more expressive and a heck of a lot smarter. The result is a screaming, squirming, crying mess at the mere sight of the doctor's office. Don't worry; get through this and you're done with immunizations until kindergarten.
Now that your baby's older, it's time to change your tactics. You can still offer plenty of snuggles to your distressed kiddo, but you might need to be smarter about the way you deal with shots, since your little one now understands, localizes and fears pain. Here are some ways you can ease anxiety during the last few shots.
- Bring a familiar item. Your baby has been at the doctor's office enough to know the drill now. In fact, she might start crying as soon as you pull in the parking lot. The sights, sounds and smells of the office can trigger her short memory into picturing serious pain. Temper that reaction by bringing a familiar lovey along with you to the appointment. If she has the scent of a well-loved blankie or teddy bear with her, it can be a calming influence for a little while. What's more, you can distract her attention by using it to play peek-a-boo and catch while you wait.
- Distract attention. A Brigham Young University study funded by the Office of Research and Creative Activities (ORCA) found that distraction worked to reduce child pain and anxiety when it came to immunizations. The study suggested a DVD as a means of distraction, so grab your portable DVD player or iPod and a backlog of Dora the Explorer to keep your baby's mind off of the impending pain at the doctor's office. Don't worry about your pediatrician being annoyed at the noise—a few rounds of "I'm the map, I'm the map" beats a screaming baby any day.
- Ask for numbing cream. Dull the pain sensation with some topical troops. The BYU ORCA study cited numbing spray as an effective way to manage discomfort and anxiety during vaccines. Neonatal Developmental Nurse Specialist Theresa Kledzik recommends using EMLA Cream (lidocaine 2.5 percent and prilocaine 2.5 percent) as a way to numb up the injection site. And hey, knowing that a needle hurts your child less can help you relax a little too. EMLA isn't given routinely and you'll need a prescription, so be proactive and request it before your appointment. "Apply EMLA cream to the injection site 45 minutes prior to the injection." suggests Kledzik. "[It] takes away the pain of the needle going through the top layers of skin. It [won't] completely take the pain away, but is very effective."
- Offer a treat or reward. Take advantage of the fact that she's finally old enough to understand a reward system—and take a bribe. Even if your baby seems impassive to your promises of a snack or a trip to the park, the prospect of something to look forward to can quash your own guilt trip. You'll feel better if you can follow-up a negative experience with a positive one. Offering up a few fruit snacks or a cheese puff is fine, but dairy treats like ice cream are best left to older babies and toddlers—the University of Maryland Medical Center advises delaying dairy products until your baby is at least a year old due to a high incidence of intolerance and allergy.
- Watch for warning signs. The IPV immunization your baby gets is actually for polio, the childhood disease that was a major threat about 50 years ago. While it's clearly not a big deal today (because of the immunization) the vaccine can have a few side effects that leave your little one under the weather, including soreness, stiffness, unusual crying spells, fever, chills, fussiness, fatigue and skin discoloration. These side effects should last less than 24 hours, so call your doc if your baby hasn't bounced back after a day. The IPV shot can also cause some major health risks, which your doctor should discuss with you beforehand. Head to the emergency room if your child becomes lethargic or experiences shallow breathing after the vaccine.
It's hard to think that you're nearly finished with the harrowing experiences that are infant vaccinations. The thing is, as your baby gets older, her immune system gets stronger as well, so lots of diseases and illnesses become less of a threat. After the first year of life, your doctor's appointments will probably become fewer and farther between. Be a proactive parent and stick to the vaccination schedule—you'll thank yourself as your child continues to grow stronger and healthier.