Tips for Stress-Free Vaccinations
If we are honest, most of us will admit that taking our baby or child for their vaccinations is a not high on our list of most anticipated milestones, but we do it because immunisation is the best way of protecting them against preventable diseases.
Immunisation protects not only your child, but also the community at large, against a number of preventable diseases.
When you consider the diseases that these vaccinations protect our children from, I know that putting my child through a few moments of discomfort from an injection is by far the more preferable option.
Which Diseases Do Childhood Vaccinations Protect My Baby/Child Against?
Tips for Stress-Free Vaccinations
Three children (and many vaccination appointments) have taught me that there are a number of things you can do to help make taking your child to be vaccinated as stress free as possible – for both you and them. Here are some tips I have picked up, either through my own experience or from other parents along the way, which may help to make immunisation time easier.
1. Stay Up to Date and Immunise on Time
Between the ages of 0-4 years there are a number of vaccinations required. The vaccines are provided at no cost, to protect your child against the most serious childhood infectious diseases. Most vaccinations need to be given several times in order to build long-lasting protection, so it is important that your child completes the full recommended schedule of vaccinations at the recommended times.
NSW Health has developed a FREE app to make it easier for parents to ensure their children are fully immunised on time. The ‘Save the Date’ app allows parents to enter their child’s name, date of birth and GP contact details. The app calculates your child’s next immunisation date and sends a series of reminders prompting you to call and schedule an appointment. It even allows you to make the call directly from the app – now that is even busy-tired-parent-proof!
2. Lead by Example
Even young babies are able to pick up if their parent is feeling anxious or nervous. Staying calm and being matter-of-fact about the procedure is important, as your child will invariably feed off these feelings.
Older children benefit from being prepared in advance about what the immunisation process involves. I found that talking to my child about what to expect in simple terms allowed them to feel more in control of the situation and prevented any surprises. Having said that, I was always careful not to bring it up until the morning of the procedure – having been a child with an overactive imagination myself once, I know firsthand how children can worry over things if given too long to mull them over.
Personally I find being very matter-of-fact about the process and using positive language works best. I explained to my children before their 4 year old immunisations that it was to keep them healthy so they won’t get sick. I was also honest and told them that it would most likely hurt, like a quick pinch, but it would only last for a moment.
3. Dress Your Child Appropriately
I know that 3-piece suit you bought last week with jeans and matching jacket is totally adorable, but trust me, when it comes to taking your child to be immunised, comfort and practicality are paramount. You won’t want to have to fuss around too much getting them undressed beforehand, and they certainly won’t appreciate being handled too much afterwards! Babies are often required to have their vaccination in their thighs, and older children in their arms, so a onesie with easy access poppers were always my go-to attire whilst they were babies, whilst short-sleeved t-shirts seemed to work best for their 4-year-old vaccines.
4. The Power of Distraction
The best distraction techniques for babies and toddlers involve oral stimulation, so don’t be afraid to breast or bottle feed during the vaccination or use a pacifier.
The physical closeness of cradling your child during the procedure will also distract them and relieve any pre-shot anxiety.
For older kids, in my opinion, you can’t beat giving them something positive to focus on as a reward after the vaccination, such as a visit to the park, or a treat. Don’t be surprised though if they start asking (every 10 minutes) how long they have to wait until they get their needles – just so they can cash in on the ice-cream or bike ride you promised them!
For more information about immunisation visit www.immunisation.health.nsw.gov.au or speak to your local GP
Download the ‘Save the Date to Vaccinate’ app at the website too www.immunisation.health.nsw.gov.au
What other techniques or ideas for making vaccinations less stressful can you share with other parents?