Baby Shots: A Sore Subject

It’s just a fact. Baby getting shots = baby crying. As difficult as this for parents to take, and as much as we’d love to take the pain for them, there’s no getting around it. I really wish there was. Of course, all babies are different. I talked to one parent who said her baby didn’t cry at all during his last shots. My baby isn’t like that.

My baby recently had her third round of immunizations at her 6-month checkup. I had been dreading this appointment since the 4-month checkup (which I had dreaded since the 2-month checkup). Here’s why: at the 2-month appointment, my baby was given 4 shots, she wailed, I cried, it was devastating. She continued to cry long after the shots were over, fell asleep in the car and continued to sleep at home, but then woke up and (despite being given Tylenol) was fussy and crying off-and-on (and not herself) for the rest of the day and evening.

I was determined to be a little more proactive for the next round of shots (at 4 months). I had read an article about making shots hurt less. Among suggestions in the article was applying a prescription topical numbing cream called EMLA. I got the prescription and applied it to her legs prior to the shots. I so hoped that this (along with the Tylenol I gave her ahead of time) would help. I also brought a bottle of pumped breast milk, and a pacifier (to give her after the shots). Four shots later, she had the same reaction (if not worse) as before. She would not stop crying. She wouldn’t take the bottle or the pacifier. We took her outside and she continued to cry and cry. She fell asleep in the car on the way home, and continued to sleep for about an hour at home. But then, when she woke up she was inconsolable. This went on just as it had 2 months prior and into the next day.

Naturally I was dreading the 6-month appointment. However, because she was now 6 months old, I was able to give her Motrin, which I did about an hour before her shots. She cried during and for a few minutes after her 4 shots. But then, she stopped crying, and was quiet before we even left the examination room. She fell asleep in the car. My husband and I went out to lunch and ran errands with her, while she slept most of the time, and woke up a few times, calm, even smiling. She was fine the rest of the day, night, next day, etc.

I was really relieved that this last time was so much better than the prior two times. In my own experience, the tactics suggested in the magazine article didn’t work. The EMLA cream did nothing. I talked to my friend – who is a mom and a pediatrician –about it afterward and she said that it just numbs the skin, but not the muscle underneath where the shot goes. Tylenol helped a little but not as much as our new friend Motrin (which can be given once a baby is 6 months old). We don’t have to go back for shots again for 3 more months. But when we do, I’ll be sure to bring the Motrin.

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