Immunization

Immunizations for babies and toddlers 

Vaccines are an important part of healthy growth and development. Think of them the same way you would healthy eating, physical activity, or proper sleep.

Vaccines are a proven and safe way to prevent serious infections. Although we rarely see most of these diseases in Canada now, they still exist. If we stop vaccinating children, these diseases will return. Vaccines sometimes even prevent death.

Vaccines help your body to help itself. Your body will make antibodies when you get a vaccine. Antibodies help your immune system to identify and destroy a virus. This will protect your baby or toddler and those around them.

Most vaccines are given by injection. Some are given orally (in the mouth). New types of vaccines, such as nasal sprays, make them less painful for some patients.

It is important to report any vaccines your child receives to Ottawa Public Health(OPH). OPH keeps a record of your child's vaccinations to help protect public safety. This is important if there is ever a disease outbreak.

Parent blurb

Your child's health care provider and school are not mandated to report your child's immunization to OPH. Please visit our Reporting page for more information on reporting vaccines.

What vaccines does my baby or toddler (birth to 3 years) need?

Your baby will need several vaccines before the age of 3. From birth, babies have some antibody protection provided by the mother and will begin to develop their own antibodies in response to germs that are part of the environment. Vaccines help your baby develop antibodies to protect them from diseases that can cause serious harm and even death.

The schedule below will help you know what vaccine your child needs, and when:

At 2 months and again at 4 months
  1. Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  2. Pneumococcal conjugate-13 
  3. Rotavirus 
At 6 months
  1. Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  2. Rotavirus
  • Influenza vaccine is recommended starting at 6 months of age and older
At 12 months
  1. Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  2. Meningococcal conjugate-C
  3. Pneumococcal conjugate-13
At 15 months
  1. Varicella (chickenpox)
At 18 months
  1. Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

 

You will need to get the vaccines listed from your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, you can get them from a walk-in clinic.

Visit our diseases prevented by routine vaccination page for more information on these diseases.

See what vaccines are publicly funded in Ontario in this resource.

Reducing pain during vaccination

Getting a vaccine will be a new experience for your baby. Your toddler might be a bit afraid. Here are some helpful tips to reduce the pain of a vaccine. Give it your best shot!

For babies

Breastfeed

  • Breastfeed your baby 5 minutes before the injection, as well as during and after vaccinations, to reduce pain and to provide comfort.

Breastfeed to minimize vaccination pain - 2 months

 

Breastfeed to minimize vaccination pain - 6 months

Hold comfortably

  • Hold the baby close to your body, in a front-to-front position with both legs exposed. This reassuring close contact can help to reduce pain. 

Offer sugar water

  • For babies 12 months of age or less, who are not breastfed, give a few drops of sugar solution (on the tip of the infant's tongue) one minute before the injection. Repeat administration of a few drops of sugar solution just before the injection. The sweet solution provides a few minutes of pain relief during vaccination.
  • Purchase a pre-mixed sugar solution at a pharmacy or prepare one at home by mixing 5 mL (one teaspoon) sugar with 10 mL (two teaspoons) water. Do not use honey.
  • Never use sugar water at home to calm a fussy or crying baby, as this can lead to tooth decay.
  • Feed your baby or give sips of water to clean the baby's mouth after vaccination.
For toddlers

Prepare your child ahead of time

  • Read stories about what happens when you visit the doctor.
  • Offer an honest explanation about what to expect.  Prepare young children (under 4 years of age) just before the injection. Prepare older children the day before.
  • Describe how vaccination will feel (for example, like a pinch).
  • Tell your child what they can do to ease the pain (for example, sit still, breathe deeply, relax the arm).

Distract your child

  • Draw your child's attention away from the needle. This is one of the best ways that you can help your child. 
  • Distract your child with a favourite toy or blanket, a book, music, singing, or telling a joke or a story.
  • Tell your child to take a deep breath and to blow it out slowly. Blowing bubbles or blowing on a pinwheel can help also. 

Position your child in an upright position

Hold your young child securely in a comforting hug, sitting upright on your lap, facing forward, or facing you (front to front), with the arm exposed.  Lying flat on their back during an injection, or being held too tightly, can be scary for children and can increase their fear. Older children can sit alone if they wish, with the arm exposed.

If your child continues to move, ask your healthcare provider about the proper hold technique that is safest for your child.

Vaccine Safety

Visit our Vaccine safety page for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Looking for more information? Visit our Frequently asked questions page.

Do you have more questions?

Contact Us