Psychologists have found that heightened levels of pain for a child during their injections can be linked to their mother's anxiety.
The mother's concerns about their child receiving their vaccinations are picked up by the child. "Most mothers tend to feel a bit apprehensive about taking their baby to their first immunisations but for first-time mums it is a bit more daunting" said Dr Nadja Reissland, who led the study at Durham University.
"These results show that a mother's anxiety and distress is somehow 'felt' by the baby, who in turn shows more pain." Dr Reissland went on to say "It is possible that first-time mothers get more stressed about taking their babies for their immunisations due to the unfamiliarity of the process, and how much pain they believe their babies are in could stop them taking their babies for follow-up vaccinations".
"This could result in children having incomplete immunisations. It is important that first-time mums feel reasonably comfortable about the experience to reduce theirs and their babies' anxiety" she added.
The study involved 50 first and second-time mothers with their two month old babies, during their routine vaccinations. The researchers analysed the expressions of the children before, during and after their injection took place.
Babies of first-time mothers showed significantly more pain before the needle even touched them, compared with the babies of second-time mothers.
The results were published in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, and suggested that both new and experienced mothers exaggerate their child's pain.
Immunisation expert for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr David Elliman, said "Vaccinating children is extremely important in order to protect them from infectious diseases. It's extremely common for children to become nervous just before doctors carry out these vaccinations, so the mother's behaviour during this time is very important in reducing pain felt by their baby when being immunised - something this study emphasises".
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