One of the saddest and hardest things for me to do after having baby A was take her for her first vaccination at 8 weeks. My rational self knows how fortunate I am to live in a country that provides vaccination and protection against all kinds of diseases, but emotionally I felt devastated that my tiny little bubba was going to get 4 injections on her chubby little thighs that thus far were only accustomed to our kisses.
Leading up to it I had a mini internal battle: are vaccines really necessary for such small children and if so why are so many educated parents opting out of having them or delaying them? I spoke to a few parents and did some research online. Not surprisingly with the latter there were compelling arguments on both sides from experts and parents. Almost everyone I spoke to however was pro vaccination. On balance I decided the best thing to do was go ahead with it and just pray my baby would be ok.
So the NHS vaccination programme is pretty intense for babies, they get a cocktail of injections at 8, 12 and 16 weeks including Meningitis B, after which parents are advised to give calpol as they get a temperature. Each session involves multiple injections and also oral drops. When we arrived for our first appointment, I felt quite brave, I’d convinced myself it was for the best and that we were doing the right thing but I still felt nervous. Our regular nurse was away so we had a locum and had to wait about half an hour for them to sort out some admin, which didn’t help my anxieties. When we finally went in, the nurse sat us down and asked me to undress my baby from the bottom half and hold her firmly against myself. I tried to make conversation and let her know I was slightly worried but she just dismissed that as silly. When I asked her if it would hurt she said “of course, it’s an injection!” I don’t know what I expected her to say but it certainly wasn’t that! Baby A had two injections in each thigh and some oral drops. She let out a little cry each time a needle went in, but overall she was extremely brave. I on the other hand burst into tears as soon as the whole ordeal was over! Seeing the little plasters on her legs was horrible for me. I’m sure the nurse thought I was insane. Actually the first time the health visitor came to see me at home she pricked baby A’s foot, Every baby in the UK is offered newborn blood spot screening, also known as the heel prick test, ideally when they are five days old, to find out if they have one of 9 rare blood conditions. I also broke down on that occasion! It was kind of weird for me as I’ve never been scared of injections or giving blood myself but to see it happen to my baby was heart breaking.
As a general rule I’m not pro giving meds to babies, I think hugs and extra breastfeeding can cure most common ailments, but I did follow the advice of the nurse and give Calpol after the injections on week 8 and 16. Baby A (and probably most babies), was very brave and after a few hugs and some milk she fell asleep and woke up perfectly happy. After her 12 weeks injections we travelled the next day by train to Glasgow and she was perfectly fine. I think she was most fussy after 16 weeks but at most it lasted a day. And on that occasion I decided to not give calpol every 4/6 hours as they suggested, in fact I only gave it to her once.
Obviously how you chose to proceed with the vaccination programme in your country is down to you. I would recommend them, for the sake of protecting your child but also for other children with weaker immune systems or those at higher risks of infections. What motherhood has taught me so far above everything else is how precious children are. All children, not just mine, and we owe it to them to give them the best start we can. For me that’s particularly in regards to health because I know ultimately I have no control over what illnesses and sicknesses she’ll get in her life. I just want to do all I can to protect her and I guess that’s through healthy living, food, education and also vaccinations. Edit
For all parents about to undergo the vaccination programme, Good luck! I think in some ways it’s harder for us parents than it is for our babies because we imagine the pain of injections on their behalf. Babies are stronger and braver than we know, give them lots of love and hugs and kisses and milk, and I’m sure your little ones will be just fine. And don’t be embarrassed to have a little cry if you need to, it’s hard and upsetting for some of us and there’s no shame in showing that.