My baby - my tiny little perfect new baby – just blacked out after his six-week old vaccinations.

I am slightly exaggerating. He didn't black out, more like "whited" out.

I had been through the "vaccination guilts" before with his sister, 6, and brother, 3, at their six-week jabs and things had gone better than expected on both occasions.


Both of them realised the first injection had happened once it was out of their leg, barely flinching. It was the second one that tipped them over the edge. The look of betrayal and shock on their wee faces still haunts me.

I was expecting a similar reaction from Number 3.

As I got out his bottle to feed him through the jabs, the nurse pulled out a needle that looked like it could go right through the skinny little thigh she put it in.

His face instantly scrunched up and went bright red. He looked to be in the most pain I had ever seen a baby in. He did one of those silent screams that kids only do when they are in a lot of pain.

Then, nothing. He stayed red, frozen, his face screwed up for ages.

Not breathing, not screaming. Just all red and traumatised, betrayed by his mum, the one person who is meant to look after him.

He cried briefly and was quickly pacified with his bottle. I knew we were in for a shocker after that but it still didn't prepare me for it.

Exactly the same thing happened again, but this time, he stayed red and scrunched up for way too long.


"Breathe," the nurse said: "Breathe." Nothing.

When he finally did, he screamed. He had real tears, which breaks your heart because babies only cry real tears when they are really, really upset.

And then, he went white. So white and so sleepy. He was breathing and had been slowly drinking his bottle so it wasn't a massive panic but it still wasn't pleasant watching our tiny little innocent baby kind-of faint.

"I've never seen one go that white before," the nurse said.

As he lay on a bed, we placed his little legs up on a pillow to see if more colour would return to his face. Then she went to get our doctor, who checked to confirm he was fine.

He had a wee doze and then was more hungry and eventually came right.

Vaccinations are traumatic because it's one of the first times you really feel parental guilt.

It is one of the first decisions you have to make as a parent, so of course you can't help but worry about any nasty side effects that may occur as a result.

My mind wandered to a few extreme places while I waited to see if our pale little guy was going to come right.

The guilt of what could happen when we vaccinate versus the guilt of something happening if we don't is something every parent has to weigh up.

We decided that a brief bit of pain on a handful of occassions in early childhood was a small price to pay for what could happen if we didn't.

And you just have to suck it up because there are plenty more decisions to make and other things to feel guilty about down the track.

What does a reaction like this mean?

Associate Professor at The University of Auckland and director of The Immunisation Advisory Centre, Nikki Turner, explains in medical terms why our parenting columnist's baby had this reaction, and what it means.

"Beck's little fellow had a very rare but expected reaction to being vaccinated. He basically got a great fright causing his blood vessels to dilate, (widen), his blood pressure to drop and go pale.

"It's referred to in babies as a hypotonic, hyporesponsive episode (HHE). It is scary to see, but resolves by itself. It happens around 57 out of every 100,000 babies who are immunised. There are no long-term effects and baby is able to continue receiving further immunisations."