It’s not until you’ve had the experience of being in the emergency department of the hospital with your own four-week-old baby, that you realise just how sick kids can get.
In my situation, thankfully my baby was only in hospital for three nights before all the tests came back to show it was a harmless virus and nothing more serious. Seeing some of the parents watching over their sleeping, sick little ones I knew that we were so very lucky. Three nights in hospital, sleeping under bright lights and with the sound of machines was nothing compared to going home with a healthy baby.
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Protecting our babies starts in pregnancy
In my case, my daughter had a harmless virus and not something that would have been affected by any vaccines, but I would never take the risk. And there are ways you can start protecting the health of your baby, even during pregnancy.
The whooping cough and influenza vaccines are both recommended during pregnancy. They are free for pregnant women under the National Immunisation Program, nationally approved and safe for both mum and baby. It is important to remember that your GP, midwife or obstetrician are always the best source of information for your personal situation. They can answer any questions you have about the vaccines and help you with any of your concerns.
Importantly, the immunity from the whooping cough vaccine fades over time, hence why adults are recommended a booster every 10 years. So in pregnancy this means that the recommendation is for pregnant women to be vaccinated during each pregnancy from 28 weeks, no matter whether it is your first baby or your fifth.
Passing on your immunity
When you are vaccinated for whooping cough or influenza during your pregnancy you pass antibodies on to your baby that help protect them until they are able to have their own vaccinations.
Babies aren’t vaccinated against whooping cough until 6 weeks of age and they aren’t able to have the flu vaccine until they are 6 months old. Without the vital antibodies from their mum, they are very much at risk.
I could not have done anything to prevent my baby from ending up in hospital but if I could have then I can 100% assure you that I would have had every needle and vaccine under the sun.
Family vaccines are just as important
You might be worried about bringing the vaccine conversation up with friends and family but the reality is that in those first weeks and months, babies are very vulnerable to any infections.
For those that will be closest to your baby in the first weeks of their life (including any siblings, cousins etc.), they should also receive whooping cough and influenza vaccines.
Much like how my 2.5-year-old is still rear facing in her car seat, as a parent I take the approach of doing everything I can in my power to protect my children from potential harm, including educating myself on things such as vaccination. As I mentioned above, if you are pregnant then your GP, midwife or obstetrician is the best person to share any concerns or ask questions.
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