Professor Robert Winston’s sleeping, feeding and growing tips

Sleep problems? Weaning an older baby off the breast? TV's child development expert answers your tricky parenting questions…

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When Professor Robert Winston took to the stage at The Baby Show at Earls Court last October, he answered parents’ individual questions. We were there to capture his unexpected and fascinating answers…

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See Professor Robert Winston at the upcoming The Baby Show at Olympia, London, 25 – 27 October 2013, with our exclusive ticket offer!

Q. What are your tips for sleeping? I have an 18-month-old girl and I have trouble getting her to go to sleep at bedtime even though she rarely has a nap during the day.

A. You could try persuading her to have some down-time in the day, as this might help to change her sleep pattern slightly. Or you could try putting her down later at night, but this would involve you doing more in the evenings, which you might find a nuisance. The fact is that we don’t all need the same amount of sleep, but babies do tend to need much more sleep than adults. It might be that you will just have to accept and adjust to how she is, and, for a while, you might just have to spend time with a child who won’t go to sleep.

Q. I’ve been embarrassingly unsuccessful at weaning my child who’s almost three, so I’ve ended up breastfeeding all the way through my second pregnancy, and now I’m breastfeeding two children. My eldest is adamant she won’t stop and it’s a real fight sometimes. How can I wean her?

A.  This is a problem that many mums have, and by the age of three it’s usually resolved. At some stage in the weaning process there’s a moment when you really have to be firm, bite the bullet and grit your teeth. My daughter had this problem with her first child. She stopped breastfeeding at about 7 or 8 months, found it very difficult and would be in tears. There comes a point, I think, when you just have to be very firm with her.

Q. Is there an age at which you can predict how tall your child is going to be?  

A. It’s totally unpredictable and even looking at your own height and your partner’s height isn’t that helpful. One of my children was thought to have a really serious growth problem when he was young and we even saw a specialist doctor in London. But now my son is about 6ft tall and wears size-12 shoes, and there’s no way I could have predicted that would happen. Sometimes children do have serious growth problems, but they won’t be noticeable when they are babies. However, in the first year of life it’s unlikely they’ll encounter a growth problem. Babies can be underweight or overweight and that’s a concern you’d need to discuss with your GP. When it comes to height, though, I can’t predict that, so I’m afraid you won’t be able to either. 

Q. Babies these days are used to having mobile phones and computers around them. Is that doing them any harm in the long run?

A. I actually think mobile phones and computers are amazing things for children. My grandchildren, who are 2 and 4, both use mobile phones. I think you are worried about what’s called non-ionising radiation, and that’s actually the radiation that we have around us all the time. At the Imperial College research institute in London, we’ve not found any data surrounding this that causes concern. When it comes to children’s learning and development, I think that mobile phones and computers can actually be positive influences. However, one thing I do think is that it is unwise for children who are just 4 or 5 years old to be watching their own television in their room unsupervised. That said, I think that the positive side of children using both digital broadcasting and mobile telephones should not be discouraged.

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See Robert Winston at The Baby Show, NEC, 17-19 May.

Famous for his work as a professor, scientist and TV presenter, Lord Robert Winston’s also a dad of three and grandfather of three. He will be at The Baby Show in February on selected days to talk about the pioneering work of the Genesis Research Trust, so pay it a visit to hear his expert advice and get your own questions answered in person. 

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