How to Soothe a Baby After Shots

By Zora Hughes ; Updated September 26, 2017
Help your baby get through those painful shots.
Help your baby get through those painful shots.

As a parent, you want to ease your baby's pain after getting a vaccination. While there are multiple soothing options available, the "5 S's" method, championed by pediatrician and author Dr. Harvey Karp, has generated buzz for its effectiveness for children under 5 months of age. Published in "Pediatrics," a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the "5 S's" stand for swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing sounds, swinging and sucking. There are several other soothing options to consider to ease your baby's pain if she is older than 5 months.

5 S's Method

Swaddle your baby immediately after he receives the shot to calm him. To swaddle, fold down one corner of a square blanket to create a straight edge and lay your baby on the blanket so his shoulders line up with it. Wrap one side of the blanket over your baby's body, tucking it under his back, then fold the bottom of the blanket to the chest loosely. Finish by folding he other side of the blanket over and underneath your baby.

Hold your swaddled baby on her side or stomach. Babies tend to feel more content on their side or stomach, according to Dr. Karp. This should only be done when you are holding your baby and not when she is sleeping. Babies should always lie on their backs to sleep.

Make soothing shushing sounds in your child's ear. It should be loud enough for your baby to hear over his own crying to work as a calming trigger.

Swing your baby in your arms gently back and forth, making sure to support his head. Use short swings no more than an inch or so in either direction. Infants are used to constant movement in the womb, which can aid in relaxation.

Give your baby something to suck on, such as a pacifier, breast or bottle. Sucking is a naturally calming reflex for babies, according to Dr. Karp.

Other Soothing Methods

Feed your baby. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding during or immediately after receiving a shot is both soothing and a welcome distraction from the pain.

Try a numbing cream. Topical anesthetics like EMLA cream, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, blocks the pain transmitting nerve messages to the brain, according to pediatrician Dr. Herschel Lessin of Children's Medical Group. Ask your child's doctor about applying a numbing cream ahead of time.

Distract your baby. Immediately grabbing your baby's attention can distract them from pain. Bring bubbles to blow, shake a noise-making toy he loves, play peek-a-boo or sing his current favorite song.

Give your baby a tiny amount of sugar water. Although somewhat controversial, giving newborns and young infants a sugar-water solution orally has long been the standard procedure in hospitals and doctor's offices before giving vaccines. According to two 2012 studies published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, sugar water appears to have a pain reducing effect on infants during painful procedures. It remains murky whether it's any better than any other option, such as breastfeeding, however. It is best to make a decision on sucrose with your baby's pediatrician.

Things You Will Need

  • Swaddling blanket
  • Pacifier


Consult with your baby's pediatrician about all pain relief options you are considering.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.