A baby’s two-month checkup can be a little unnerving for some parents. Your baby is no longer a floppy, helpless newborn, but now that your work leave is running out and your visitors have headed home, you’re probably feeling worn out and dazed. A two-month checkup can feel overwhelming, not just because you might have a lot of questions and concerns, but also because it tends to be full of vaccines. Babies get more vaccines at two months than at any other age, and while the side effects are usually mild and short-lived, they can still be worrisome to some parents. Here are the vaccines you can expect at your baby’s two-month checkup.
Your baby probably had her first hepatitis B vaccine right after birth, before leaving the hospital. If she didn’t get a booster shot for hepatitis B at some point since then, now’s the time to do it. The hepatitis B vaccine protects against a deadly virus that can cause long-term illness and can prevent a baby’s liver from working properly. It’s one of the only shots that is so completely safe that it’s given routinely to newborn babies just hours after birth, and almost none have any side effects.
Rotavirus is a nasty stomach bug that isn’t usually a big deal for adults, but can quickly be deadly for babies, which is why babies need this vaccine at two months. Rotavirus causes drawn-out spells of uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea. These not only make the baby miserable, but they can cause dehydration quickly, which could land your baby in the hospital hooked up to an IV. Worse, dehydration from rotavirus can kill, especially if it hits your baby while he’s still very young. This is a very important vaccine with few side effects besides, occasionally, a mild upset stomach.
Parents are sometimes afraid of how frequently babies have to get a dose of this vaccine, but it’s really nothing to worry about. DTaP is an “updated” version of an old vaccine called DTP that sometimes caused a high fever. It now contains just a select few pieces of virus DNA so that your baby’s immune system can respond to it with fewer side effects, but that also means that he needs to get this shot several times for it to be effective. The DTaP is a triple-hitter that protects babies from diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. The last one is the most important: pertussis, also called whooping cough, has been coming back because of parents who don’t vaccinate, and babies who catch this disease often die from choking to death on their own mucus. Even when they survive, whooping cough leads to several months of nonstop, painful coughing. Your baby needs this vaccine at two months so he doesn’t catch this awful disease while he’s still at his youngest and weakest.
You may have never heard of Hib, which is short for Haemophilus influenza type B, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t an important vaccine. Babies get this vaccine at their two-month checkup and it starts defending them from problems ranging from mild ear infections and stuffy noses to pneumonia and meningitis. Meningitis, which is an infection of the membranes around the brain and spine, quickly causes death, and survivors often have lasting brain damage.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV, vaccine protects babies starting at their two-month checkup. Pneumococcus is a form of strep bacteria that can cause really icky infections that get out of hand quickly. The vaccine defends against pneumonia caused by pneumococcus, which means that far fewer babies end up dead or hospitalized as a result o pneumonia, compared to a half-century ago. The PCV vaccine and helps to prevent the bacteria from causing other awful infections, which can include meningitis at worst and painful ear infections at best.
We are very lucky to live in a time when polio vaccines are given as a matter of course at two-month checkups and beyond. Polio used to claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and leave many of its survivors paralyzed. The modern polio vaccine is inactivated (killed), so there is no live virus in the vaccine and it’s completely impossible for your baby to catch polio from the shot. Because it’s very safe and has few side effects, it’s a standard part of the vaccine schedule for two-month-old babies.
Since there are so many vaccines given at a two-month checkup, it’s common for parents to worry that their babies are getting too many. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the CDC’s vaccine schedule is compiled from evidence-based medicine using decades of careful research. The experts who developed the vaccine schedule carefully consider the relative benefits and risks of each vaccine at each check-up and recommend only the vaccines that are both safe and necessary for your baby’s protection. Of course, as always, if you’re concerned about your baby’s vaccine schedule, don’t be afraid to talk to your pediatrician for reassurance and expert advice. If you understand the reason for every vaccine, you’ll feel safer and more confident going in for your baby’s two-month checkup.