Support and Advice from TNPC's Parenting Experts

Babies can’t be immunized against every kind of infectious illness, but they can and should be protected against the killer diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough or pertussis, tetanus, and polio, and then against the common illnesses like measles, mumps, and rubella which can be serious in themselves or dangerous to certain groups (as rubella is to unborn babies). Later still (usually around two) toddlers can be immunized against HBII, a common cause of epidemic meningitis.

Your pediatrician will work out an immunization program for your baby and give the shots himself. He’ll allow for any special problems or needs your baby may have and will willingly discuss any concerns you may have about possible side effects. Do go to him, don’t just let your baby miss out on this vital health protection. However rare some of those diseases may seem, the germs still exist, and if babies were not immunized, epidemics would soon recur.

And whatever you may have heard about side effects, only a minute percentage of babies get anything worse than a sore arm and maybe a day of slight fever. Just occasionally, babies do react badly to pertussis immunization, but if you’d ever seen a young baby with real whooping cough, you’d know that tiny risk was worth taking.

Penelope Leach, Ph.D., is one of the world’s most respected (and best-loved) developmental child psychologists. She is most widely known for her best-selling books on child development and parenting. They include Babyhood, Children First: What Society Must Do — and Is Not Doing — for Our Children Today, the classic Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five (now in a new edition for a new generation), and Your Growing Child: From Babyhood Through Adolescence.


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