Your baby’s vaccinations

Watching your baby get vaccinations (also called immunizations) can be more painful for you than for her! Don’t worry. She may be uncomfortable for a minute, but these shots help protect her from serious childhood diseases and keep her healthy.

All children should be vaccinated for their own health and so they don’t spread infections to others.

What vaccinations does your baby need?

In the first 2 years of life, your baby gets several vaccines to protect her. This schedule shows each vaccine your baby gets up to 6 years. It also shows how many doses she gets of each vaccine and when she gets them.

This schedule is based on the vaccination schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has done lots of research to make sure vaccination schedules are healthy and safe for children.

Are there risks or side effects to vaccinations?

Most babies don’t have side effects from vaccines. If they do, they usually aren't serious.

Some vaccines may cause low fever, a rash or soreness at the spot where the shot was given. Although your baby may seem like he’s getting sick after a vaccination, these reactions are good signs that his immune system is working and learning to fight off infections.

In rare cases, a baby may have a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine. Signs of a serious allergic reaction include:

  • Breathing problems and wheezing
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Being hoarse
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Hives
  • Paleness

Call your baby’s health care provider right away if she has any of these reactions. If you have any questions about the risks of vaccinations, ask your baby’s health care provider for more information.

Do vaccinations cause autism?

No. Vaccinations do not cause autism. Many studies have shown no association between vaccines and developing autism.

Some people are concerned that thimerosal, a chemical that has mercury in it and is used in some vaccines, causes autism. This concern came from a study done many years ago. The research in that study was flawed.

Since then, much careful research shows that thimerosal in vaccines did not cause autism. Thimerosal is no longer used in vaccines, except in tiny amounts in some flu shots. You can get a thimerosal-free flu vaccine if you want. Talk to your provider if you’re concerned about thimerosal in vaccines.

Why does your baby get the same vaccine more than once?

All childhood vaccines are given in two or more doses. Your baby needs more than one dose because each one builds up her immunity. Immunity is her body’s protection from disease. A second or third dose is needed to fully protect her. These doses work best if they’re spread out over time.

Can getting more than one shot at a time harm your baby?

During a well-baby visit, your baby may get more than one shot at a time. You may worry that too many shots at once may be too much for your baby. Your baby is stronger than you think! Your baby, even as a newborn, can handle many shots at once.

For more information

Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunizations
Why Does My Child Need to be Immunized
Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Last reviewed February 2013

See also: Vaccination schedule (PDF, 37k), Vaccinations during pregnancy

Most common questions

How do vaccines work?

Tiny organisms (like viruses and bacteria) can attack your body and cause infections that make you sick. When you get an infection, your body makes special disease-fighting substances called antibodies to fight the organism. In many cases, once your body has made antibodies against an organism, you become immune to the infection it causes. Immune means you are protected against getting an infection. If you're immune to an infection, it means you can't get the infection.

Vaccines usually have a small amount or piece of the organism that causes an infection. The organisms used in vaccines are generally weakened or killed so they won’t make you sick. The vaccine causes your body to make antibodies against the organism. This allows you to become immune to an infection without getting sick first.

Some vaccines have a live but weakened organism. These are called live-virus vaccines. While live-virus vaccines are usually safe for most babies and adults, they’re not generally recommended for pregnant women.

See also: Vaccinations and pregnancy, Your baby’s vaccinations

When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?

As soon as your baby's first tooth appears, start brushing with water. Later, when she is old enough to spit, introduce toothpaste. When you use toothpaste, make it a small (pea-sized) amount of a non-fluoride brand. Don't use a toothpaste with fluoride until your child is 2 years old, unless recommended by her dentist. Don't give her fluoride mouth rinses until she's 6. Start flossing as soon as two teeth start to touch each other.

So when should you actually take her to the dentist? The American Dental Association recommends that your baby get her first dental visit within 6 months of getting her first tooth and no later than her first birthday. The dentist checks the shape of your baby's mouth, teeth and gums and looks for signs of damage caused by thumb sucking. Maintaining dental health early can help protect your baby's teeth for a lifetime.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).