Baby's First Year · Parenting

Vaccine time? Tips to reduce immunization pain

Baby with hand on back of neck looking up

So, over the last few weeks we have been reminded to make sure that our vaccinations are up-to-date. If you’re like me or my kids, getting a needle can be quite an ordeal!  Vaccines may protect children from serious diseases, however, the pain factor can be an issue and affect your child’s experience with vaccination.  Helping to ease this pain can help make getting “the shot” a more positive experience.  Here are some tips to help reduce that needle pain for babies & toddlers.

Plan Ahead

  • Bring your child’s immunization yellow card and toys, as needed.
  • Try to stay calm. If you are nervous, take a few slow, deep breaths.  Your baby or child can sense your feelings of worry, which may increase their fear.

Tell your health care provider your plans so they can better support you.

Tips for babies

  • Cuddle your baby on your lap during vaccination.
  • Take a few deep breaths to stay calm. Babies feel what their parents feel.
  • Distract your baby with singing, breastfeeding or with toy rattles.
  • Breastfeed your baby before, during and after vaccination to reduce pain and provide comfort to both baby and parent.
  • Undress your baby, to free the legs or arms, where the needle will be given before you start breastfeeding.
  • Let your baby suck when receiving the needle.
  • For babies who are not breastfed, give a few drops of sugar water before & after the injection.
  • To make sugar water, mix one teaspoon of sugar with two teaspoons of water.

** Never use sugar water at home to calm upset or crying babies, as this can lead to tooth decay.

Tips for toddlers and children

  • Prepare your child ahead of time.
  • Explain the procedure and how it will feel. “The needle will feel like a pinch or a squeeze”.
  • Work on a solution together. Help your child choose a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, toy or a book to bring that will provide comfort. “We can take deep breaths or read together while you get the needle.”
  • Hold or cuddle your child on your lap in a comforting hug.
  • Older children can sit alone, if they wish.
  • Practice with your child slow, deep breaths so the belly expands. Blow bubbles, or use a party blower.
  • Use distractions. Sing a song; read a book; or watch a music video on a handheld device.
  • Offer praise after vaccination.

Learn more about immunizations/vaccines and if you have any questions, please contact our Immunization Information Centre at (416) 392-1250.

Share your positive immunization experiences by commenting below.

Check out our top posts over the last year as we celebrate our 1st blogaversary!

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