If you’re a caregiver for a precious little one, your baby’s health and well-being are the most important things to you. This includes taking them for their 4-month well visit at your doctor’s office for scheduled vaccinations.
Babies can naturally fight many germs when they’re born. But some kinds of germs are more harmful and even deadly. Immunizations make a baby’s immune system strong enough to fight even some of the most dangerous germs.
Vaccines are made out of a tiny part of the germ. They give a person protection from a disease without having to catch it and be sick. Babies (and even adults) don’t get all their immunizations at the same time. Some kinds of vaccines require more than one shot for the best protection.
A regular immunization schedule starts at birth. At 4 months of age, following the standard schedule, your baby will be getting a second dose of vaccines given at their 2 month visit. Here’s what to expect for your baby’s shots at around 4 months old.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
These shots are typically all second shots in a series of immunizations they’ve already had at a previous doctor visit. If your baby has not had their first doses of these vaccines, this will be the first shot.
While there are five vaccines for this visit, that doesn’t equal five shots. Wondering how that works?
First, one of the recommended vaccines (rotovirus) is oral.
Second, some of the other recommended vaccines can be combined into one shot.
So usually your baby will have 2 to 3 shots and one oral vaccine dose at their 4-month visit, depending on which specific vaccine combos their pediatrician’s office uses.
4-month vaccines for babies:
- Rotavirus: Second in series of two or three doses; first dose is normally given at 2 months.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis* (DTaP): Second in series of five doses; first dose normally given at 2 months.
- H. influenzae type b (Hib): Second in series of three or four doses; first dose normally given at 2 months.
- Pneumonia (PCV13): Second in series of four doses; first dose normally given at 2 months.
- Inactivated poliovirus (IPV): Second in series of four doses; first dose normally given at 2 months.
*Acellular pertussis is more commonly known as whooping cough.
The CDC also recommends a new vaccine against meningitis for some babies. Meningitis is a condition that attacks the brain and spinal cord and can be deadly.
Babies around 2 months old can get this disease, and 75 percent of meningitis cases in children happen before they are 5 years old.
Getting the regular five vaccines can help protect babies against meningitis. If your doctor thinks your baby also needs a separate meningitis immunization, this shot is a four-dose series that will be given at 2 months with subsequent shots at 4, 6, and 12 months.
Your pediatrician may recommend the meningitis vaccine if your baby:
- will be traveling to or living in a country where meningitis is common
- lives in a large group setting where meningitis may happen
- has a rare kind of immune disorder called complement component deficiency
- has a damaged spleen or no spleen
- is taking certain medications
- has HIV
Shots are not fun for babies (or children and adults) but luckily babies won’t remember getting them! You can prepare yourself by knowing that this kind of health protection might have some mild, common side effects.
Remember, side effects happen because your baby’s immune system is triggered to build itself by the vaccination. Shots at any age cannot cause the disease they are protecting from.
Normal side effects of 4-month shots in babies include:
- redness or swelling where the shot was given
- pain or tenderness around the shot area
- irritability or fussiness
- not wanting to feed
- mild fever or chills
- nausea or vomiting
- skin rash
In very rare cases, a baby (or adult) can have an allergic reaction to an immunization shot. Any medication can cause an allergic reaction in rare cases. Call your doctor right away if your baby has any signs of an allergic reaction.
Allergy symptoms include:
- lip, face, or throat swelling
- swelling anywhere in the body
- skin rash or hives
- shortness of breath
If your baby seems to be under the weather with a regular cold or flu, wait until they are feeling better to get any vaccinations.
Babies who have other chronic health conditions may have a higher risk of side effects from some shots. Your doctor may recommend waiting to get immunizations if your baby has:
Some kinds of medications like steroids can also temporarily weaken the immune system. Your pediatrician may delay 4-month shots if your baby is on steroids or other medications.
Take your baby to all their regular pediatrician appointments. At your baby’s 4-month checkup, your doctor will weigh your baby and check their length to see how they are growing. All the measurements will be added to your baby’s growth and development chart.
Your pediatrician will also look for and ask about other signs of your baby’s development, like:
- holding up their head
- sucking on hands or fingers
- making eye contact
- laughing or making other noises
- copying your facial expressions
- reaching for and grabbing things
- trying to roll over
- responding to your voice
- turning towards you when they see you
- pushing up when they’re lying on their stomach
- how often they’re feeding
- how often they need a diaper change
Your pediatrician may also ask about other members of your household, whether your baby goes to child care, and if you are planning to take your baby along on travels any time soon. All of these questions are to find out the best ways to keep your little one healthy.
By the time your baby is 4 months old, they’ve likely already started their healthcare journey to help protect them against dangerous and even deadly diseases. The CDC recommends that 4-month-old babies get second doses of important immunizations.
These vaccines protect against specific diseases like pneumonia and polio, as well as other diseases like whooping cough. Your doctor may also recommend a meningitis vaccine if your baby is at risk.
Immunizations cannot cause the disease they protect against. In rare cases, some babies who are unwell may have allergic reactions or other side effects. Talk to your pediatrician about the best vaccination schedule for your baby.