How to use Comfort Positioning for Medical Procedures: How to hold your child for shots

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

Studies have shown that children report feeling more pain during vaccinations while laying down as opposed to sitting up or being held by their parent.

Studies also show that when kids are held by their parents they experience less fear and distress and are more compliant, among many other benefits!

So why are we still laying kids down and restraining them for procedures?

Before you jump in, make sure you've read my post on Benefits of Comfort Positioning for Medical Procedures: How you can help your child at the doctor to find out why comfort positioning should be used and to discover the full list of benefits of comfort positioning. You can find that post by clicking here.

In this post, I'm going to be talking about how to use comfort positioning at your doctor visits and during procedures, but I won't be going over the benefits so be sure to read that post first!


It's important to be intentional when selecting a comfort position.

There's certainly not one universal comfort position that would work for every child and procedure so it's best if you take some time to think about what position would be ideal for whatever medical experience you and your child have to tackle.

You are the one who knows your child best!

You probably know how your child typically responds to medical interventions, what your child will need extra help with, or what she can handle on her own.

That's why your child needs YOU to help her.

You have the brain needed to advocate for your child and work with medical staff to figure out what position will work best for the procedure!


1. The procedure (or what part of the body needs access by staff)

Certain positions would not work well if staff needs access to different parts of the body. Think about where the medical professional would need access & if your position would give her that access. Don't be afraid to ask the medical professional if the position would work for the procedure.

2. Your child's age and size

Older kids who are incredibly fearful and express that through their body would need you to have the ability to help secure their limbs! Does your comfort position allow you to do that?

3. Your child's temperament & typical response to all things medical

Using your knowledge about how your child typically responds to medical procedures, pick the comfort position that would work best to help your child hold still while giving him/her as much (wanted) touch as possible.

All of these things should lead to you picking the safest, most comforting position for your child!


1. Make a Plan

The most important thing you'll need to do is to talk to the medical staff before the procedure (and the earlier the better to make a good plan) about your desire to use a comfort position.

The reason for this is so that you can be on the same page to make a good plan, but also because many medical professionals will say, "no," and for that reason you'll need to...


I can't emphasize this enough!

Many times medical professionals are hesitant or say no to comfort positions because they simply have not used one before.

You will need communicate confidently that this is what you expect to happen.

It may take much persuasion and for that reason I've got a PDF to help you educate your medical professional about the research & benefits of comfort positioning so be sure to download and. print that here (coming soon).

It's best to plan on staff being reluctant, so be ready to educate them!

I have yet to meet any medical assistant I haven't had to educate and all of them have said "no" initially causing me to have to demand it.

You are the parent. You can do this!

3. Maintain a Safe Position

Ok so you finally convinced everyone to use a comfort position?

Now the pressure is on!

You will need to do your part to maintain a safe comfort position because if this doesn't go well staff won't want to use one again! No pressure hah!

Be sure you have a secure hold on your child,, especially for those fearful feisty kids!

If the staff member doesn't feel comfortable with your position because your child's legs or arms are flailing, then they won't proceed.

You may need to practice with your child (or a stuffed animal or doll) the night before so you feel 100% comfortable and ready.

Here's the ideal method for using comfort positions according to The Mary Barkey & Barbara Stephens Comfort Measures Model: 1. Parents and children need to be prepared before the procedure. 2. Caregivers should be invited to be present. 3. Whenever possible, stressful procedures should be done in a treatment room (rather than hospital bedroom). 4. Use a comfort position. 5. Maintain a calm and positive atmosphere.

Ok let's dive right into what these positions look like and when you would want to use them! I've broken them down by age group but this certainly doesn't mean there isn't crossover between them so check out the ages surrounding your child's age as well.


Swaddle (4 months & under)

Babies feel comforted when they are swaddled. Swaddling helps babies feel less anxiety more secure like they were in the womb.

Swaddling for procedures works well with infants who aren't sitting up yet. You can add a pillow to support your arm if needed.

Leave baby's arm(s) or leg(s) out depending on what extremity medical staff needs access to for the procedure.

If you're able to hold your swaddled baby, that's even better!