Making your baby or child more comfortable for vaccines

Healthcare worker and small child, both wearing masks. Child is holding sleeve up on their arm and provider wipes arm with a cotton pad.

Now that COVID-19 vaccines are available for children under 5, it’s a good time to review some ways to make getting them easier for both parents and kids.

We’ve lined up some tips from the Child Life specialists at OHSU Doernbecher, organized by your child’s age.

Children 6 months to 2 years old

Breastfeeding can help your child feel less pain during a shot. Or you may want to bring a pacifier your child can suck before, during or after getting the vaccine.

Holding your child in a comfort position is simple and effective. Research shows it may help your child feel less pain. See the pictures at the bottom of this post for ways to hold your child that comfort them and keep them in position for a quicker, safer vaccination.

Finally, distract your child. Playing music, watching a video, using a light spinner, or giving them a soft toy to cuddle during or after the shot can all work. You know your child best.

Children 3 to 4 years old

Help your child practice getting a vaccine by acting it out at home. You can use a doctor kit or other toy to do this the day before or the same day. You can:

  • Have your child give a doll or stuffed animal “shots”
  • Pretend to give you a vaccine
  • Give them a pretend vaccine
  • Try out the comfort positions from the pictures below

Kids this age fear being vulnerable. Forcing them into a specific position can be extra scary, while knowing what to expect can help a lot.

Distraction works well for children this age, too. They can pick from the toys in our vaccination rooms or bring some from home. Having options gives your child a greater sense of control.

Comfort positions for needle pokes

Three stacked illustrations of an adult with a child. First illustration shows child breastfeeding. Second shows child on lap facing adult. Third shows child on lap facing outward.Holding your child in comfort positions can make needle pokes easier and less painful.

  • Swaddle
    • Hold your child close to your chest.
    • This position works well if you breastfeed during the needle poke.
  • Face your child
    • Have your child face you and wrap their legs around you.
    • Your child can look away or watch while feeling safe and secure.
  • On your lap 
    • Have your child sit on your lap.
    • Your child can look away or watch while feeling safe and secure.

What to say and do when your child gets a vaccine

You are the best source of comfort for your child. Calm yourself by taking a few deep breaths, smiling and relaxing your body. Remember that your goal is to do something good for your child.

Use comforting words when you talk to your child. For example,

  • “I’m right here with you.”
  • “I’ll be holding you to help you feel safe.”
  • “It’s OK to be scared.”
  • “You can cry if you need to.”


To learn more, visit our COVID-19 vaccine page.

Talk to your child’s doctor if you are interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine for your child.