Shots. Vaccines. Immunizations. Whatever you call them, they’re often part of raising a child in today’s world. As those of you with babies at home can attest, most children (at least, those in America and in many other developed nations) receive a LOT of shots in the first 5 or 6 years of life. These vaccinations are key to preventing life-threatening disease, and for many, are considered an important part of preventative health care. But they can also stress a parent out!
Now, there are loads of medical questions that you may have about baby immunizations, and how they will affect your little one. We won’t be tackling all of those in today’s article, but we WILL be addressing a few questions in particular:
- How do baby shots (or vaccines, or immunizations, depending on your preference) affect sleep?
- How can parents comfort their babies after vaccinations?
- Are there steps moms and dads should take to prepare for vaccines?
All good questions – and questions that we answer in today’s article!
How Do Baby Shots Affect Sleep?
This question is pretty easy to answer, actually. In general, vaccines and immunizations will affect your baby’s sleep the same way that illness does. In short, right after getting shots, your baby will more than likely be extra sleepy, and sleep more than he usually does. However, your baby may also wake more often than normal. You may see lots of night-wakings the evening after shots, for example. Or you may notice more interrupted naps (even though your baby is actually getting more nap sleep than typical). Generally, babies wake more frequently after shots due to common side effects like soreness at the injection site, or a low-grade fever.
Why is the reaction to shots similar to the reaction to illness? Well, it makes sense, if you think about it. When your baby gets an immunization, it impacts her immune system the same way that a virus or infection would. Granted, the viral components of vaccinations are much weaker than the full-fledged virus (that’s why getting a polio shot doesn’t cause actual polio), but even so, the immunizations do impact your baby’s immune system.
But this impact, while it can make us moms and dads worry, is actually a good sign. You want your baby’s immune system to respond to the shot. Ultimately, you want her immune system to develop a resistance to the diseases against which she’s being vaccinated.
Baby Vaccines: Keeping Baby Comfortable After Shots
Of course, your first thought after your baby gets vaccinated is probably, “How can I help my baby feel better and stay comfortable?” Good question!
First off, it’s important to remember that, according to a 2009 study, it is best if you DON’T offer your baby acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) after shots. Doing so may actually cause your baby’s body to produce fewer disease-fighting antibodies. This means the vaccinations end up being less effective. This is pretty ground-breaking news since prior to the study, giving a baby a dose of Tylenol right after a shot was pretty much standard practice. Now, however, most healthcare practices warn against doing so.
Miriam Chickering, Registered Nurse, Sleep Consultant, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, shares this advice:
“My biggest tip to moms is to avoid Tylenol before or after vaccines and to only give a fever reducer if the fever is dangerously high or it has been recommended by their healthcare provider, because Tylenol use before and immediately after vaccines have been linked to reduced effectiveness.”
If you don’t offer pain-relieving medication, what CAN you do to help your baby feel better?
Try some of these tips to soothe and comfort your baby after immunizations:
- Use Dr. Karp’s 5 S’s! That’s right – The Happiest Baby on the Block techniques aren’t just for sleep! you can shush, swaddle, and swing your baby to be calmer and happier after any stressful occasions – like getting shots. In fact, utilizing the 5 S techniques can stop crying an average of 45 seconds after their immunizations – pretty impressive!
- If you nurse, breastfeed often after your baby’s shots. Breastfeeding is soothing in and of itself, so if your baby is fussy and waking more than usual, offer plenty of feedings.
- Try skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact is one of the best ways to soothe a worked-up baby, particularly for newborns or young infants.
- Wear your baby. Again, this works great for newborns or young infants – being worn snugly against mom goes a long way towards soothing an inconsolable baby.
- Schedule your shots for the afternoon. As odd as this may sound, a 2011 study found that 2 month old babies who received their shots in the afternoon slept noticeably better than 2 month old babies who received their immunizations in the morning. You can read more about the findings here. So try scheduling vaccinations for 1:00 or later, as a step towards promoting better sleep.
Baby Shot/Immunization Chart from the CDC:
Altered Immunization Schedules, and Preparing for Baby Shots: Tips From Dr. Sears
Baby vaccines have become a controversial topic over the past 15 years or so – but we don’t want to dive into that controversy here. In our opinion, how you choose to handle your baby’s vaccinations and immunization schedule is between you and your healthcare provider. You should know, however, that there are lots of options between following the CDC schedule exactly and never, ever immunizing your child. Some parents choose to use delayed vaccination schedules; provided you work alongside a healthcare provider, this can be a good middle ground. Dr. Sears offers his own delayed vaccination schedule in his book, The Vaccine Book, and asserts that it’s key for healthcare providers to work with parents, and to take their vaccination concerns into account. Doing so, says Sears, will likely result in higher rates of immunizations overall.