Age Groups and Vaccines: Birth to 2 Years

Preparing for vaccines

While it is difficult to watch your child receive shots, certain things can be done to make the experience easier. First, remember that you are protecting your child from a disease or diseases that would be much more painful and longer lasting than a shot. Second, by being prepared for the visit, you will be more comfortable and relaxed; your child will detect this.

To prepare yourself

  • Bring your child's immunization record to the visit with you, particularly if your child is getting vaccinated somewhere other than at their doctor’s office.
  • Write down any questions you have and bring the list with you to the visit. You can also use the free Vaccines on the Go mobile app for recording your questions (In the “Connect” section under “Save notes or questions”).
  • Be sure to ask vaccine-related questions before the office staff comes in with the vaccine. Usually, vaccines are given after a physical examination and discussion with the parents.
  • Read the Vaccine Information Sheets and any other materials that the office staff provides to you.

To prepare your infant or toddler

  • Bring along a favorite toy or blanket.
  • Talk reassuringly to your child. Also, make eye contact with, smile at, and cuddle your child leading up to and immediately following the immunizations.
  • Talk with the office staff on how to best hold your child during the immunization to keep your child most comfortable and safe. 

In addition, for toddlers:

  • Consider using this CARD handout to ensure a more positive experience for your child.  The CARD system encourages planning ahead to be prepared when it comes to Comforting your child, Asking questions, Relaxing yourself and your child, and Distracting your child if they are apprehensive.  
  • Be honest with your child, explaining that it may hurt a bit, but it will not hurt for long. Also, explain that vaccines keep us healthy. 
  • Reassure your child that it is all right to cry if it hurts and that it will be over quickly.
  • Engage your child in a conversation or storybook.
  • If your child is old enough to understand, have the office staff rub an alcohol pad on the back of her hand or arm immediately before giving the shot. Right when the shot is ready to be given, have your child blow on the alcohol-swabbed spot. The action of blowing on the alcohol will produce a feeling of cold that will lessen the sensation of pain.

Remember, taking your children to get vaccines is an act of love. You are protecting them from something much worse than the pain of the shot.

After the vaccines

When you get home, try to comfort your child and realize that they may be more tired or cranky than usual. They may want to be held more and may be sore in the arm or leg where the shot was given. If the area where the shot was given is red, tender or swollen, you can use ice on the area, and encourage ongoing playing and movement. Give your child plenty of fluids and be aware that they may be less interested in food over the next 24 hours.

Because fevers are part of the immune response, it is most often not recommended that they be treated. If you have questions, talk with your child’s doctor. Find out more about fevers on this Q&A sheet.

Watch your child for signs of a reaction from the vaccine including a rash, prolonged fever, or unusual behaviors. If you have any reason for concern, call your child’s doctor who can tell you what to expect and what to do.

While most side effects are minor, if your child has a severe reaction, you or your child's doctor can file a report to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System or VAERS.

Other Resources

Reviewed by Lori Handy, MD, MSCE on April 24, 2023

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.