Jabs may not be fun - for either of you - but they're one of the most important things you can do to protect your baby's health. Here's what to expect.
We know no parent actually enjoys 'jab day,' but immunisations are one of the most important things you can do as a parent to protect your baby's health. Immunisations stimulate your baby's own immune system by introducing tiny amounts of weakened or inactive virus – nowhere near enough to cause the disease, but just enough to teach your baby's body how to create antibodies to fight it.
Before immunisations existed, children used to routinely catch dangerous diseases such as measles, mumps and polio, and many thousands died as a result. These days, such infections tend to be very rare, because nearly all of us have been vaccinated and are immune. But the recent popularity of the anti-vaccination movement has given some of these diseases a foothold again for the first time in decades, especially in the US, where measles made a comeback in 2015.
Of course, as a parent the decision whether to vaccinate your baby is yours to make – but all the reliable research that's available indicates that vaccines are safe, and what's more, they'll protect your baby from some very nasty (and potentially fatal) illnesses. If you'd like more information and some answers to frequently asked questions about vaccines, the NHS Choices website is a reliable source of information.
Your GP can administer your baby's vaccinations; the first lot are due when your baby is two months old. Your baby will get three vaccinations at this visit: a 5-in-one jab known as DTaP/IPV/Hib, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Hib (an infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis), plus injections to protect against pneumococcal infection and (starting in September 2015) meningococcal group B.
During this same visit, your baby will also get an oral vaccine to protect against rotavirus, which is given as a liquid for the baby to swallow. Vaccines are very safe, but they do have some common side effects. Your baby may be less settled than usual for up to 48 hours after the jab, or have a mild fever and/or a lump around the injection site. Your GP or health visitor can give you advice on how to soothe these effects and help the vaccination process go as smoothly as possible.
Your baby will have a second (smaller) lot of jabs at 3 months old, and a third appointment at 4 months – but after that, you'll get a breather until he or she is around 12 months old. And better still, you'll know your baby is protected!