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Live webchat with Professor Robert Winston, all about baby and child development, Wednesday 19 December, 1pm

(139 Posts)
AlexMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 18-Dec-12 10:03:20

We're very happy that Professor Robert Winston will be joining us on Wednesday afternoon at 1pm for a live webchat!

Professor Winston is one of the founders of IVF and presenter of a number of BBC documentaries including 'Child of our time', Super Human and the award winning 'Human Body'. Professor Robert Winston will be talking to us about brain development and how you can help your baby in their first few years.

His latest venture is advising and presenting 'The Essential Baby Care Guide'. This set of four DVDs features leading experts research including that from the Royal College of Paediatrics, UNICEF UK, St Johns Ambulance, The National Literacy Trust, the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Child Accident Prevention Trust.

The complete guide costs just £35, whilst individual DVDs are £10 each (inc. P&P) . Mumsnetters are able to get a £10 discount on the Complete Guide by entering the code MUMSNET when purchasing online before 31st December 2012. See:

Join Robert on Wednesday at 1pm or, as always, please post your advanced questions on this thread.

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:17:25


Prof Winston you are an inspiration. Sorry if this is slightly off-topic but I can't miss this opportunity! As a soon to graduate biomedical scientist, I'd love to go into the field of clinical embryology but places are severely limited. What advice would you give me and what do you believe the next advances in fertility treatments will be?

hello there. the answer must be to write around to clinics and universities which are doing clinic embryology. jobs are tight and persistence is going to be very imprtant. i think it's foolish to suggest what advances might happen in any scientific treatment but hope that assessments of pre-implantation embryos will lead to more successful transfers. RW

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:20:26


What is your view about the research into young children and day care? Am thinking about Oliver James for example, who as a psychologist is very keen to sell us the view that young children should be cared for at home preferably by their mothers.

I have read some of research but wondered on your view regarding children being cared for in nurseries etc from a young age. How significant is the developmental impact?

Dear Nelly jelly. It goes without saying that research into the care of young children is always critical - otherwise how will we ever improve what we do? Oliver James may be peddling an unrealistic ambition - more and more families have to devolve childcare to a 3rd person and vast numbers have not been harmed by this - in many different societies. the quailty of the care is what matters.

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:21:27

Whats wrong with the current guidelines? They are guidelines. RW

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:22:05

No. Yes. RW

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:24:19


I am a huge fan of Lord Winston. I also would love to see an update on child of our time.

My question is do you think a traumatic birth can shape a child's personality? My son was born by forceps traumatically and was quickly taken to neonatal as he wasn't breathing. He has a very reserved personality and has been very self aware from an early age. Could his personally be shaped by his birth?

There really is very little evidence that a traumatic birth has a long standing effect on personality. Although in the first few months after delivery there is some evidence that is there has been a traumatic delivery - there may be slightly differnt behaviour. RW

DameMargotFountain Wed 19-Dec-12 13:27:53

did you feel any envy at random men growing moustaches for MoVember at all?

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:28:35


My question is:
What are the societal effects of risk-averse parenting, and what effects do you envisage for the generation born to parents who had risk-minimised upbringings?

Dear Inmysparetime. I think our society is ludicrous in its attitude towards risk. Children have to learn how to keep themselves safe - to some extent - needing of course parental guidance. I took a 3 mile bus ride to school every morning from the age of 7 and from the age of 9 took a 45 minute ride on the underground using the Picadilly Line every morning and evening - and after dark in winter. I don't think it did me any harm! RW

zzzzz Wed 19-Dec-12 13:30:17

Is the no/yes for me?

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:33:20


Hi Professor Winston,

I've been a fan of your work for some time and I'm so happy that you'll be doing a webchat.

My question is: What do you think parents can do to ensure raising well-rounded children? If you could give any examples to use in everyday life, I would be very grateful.

Thanks and Merry Christmas grin

Dear NighbeforeChristmas. We can never ensure a well rounded child, but encouraging questions, listening, explaining things at every opportunity, and saying you dont know when you dont know - will always be helpful. RW

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:35:56

Most of the time problems with attachment are the result of parents not communicating and not showing love. RW

zzzzz Wed 19-Dec-12 13:38:21

grin DameMargot are you flirting with the visiting dignitary? grin

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 19-Dec-12 13:38:58


Is the no/yes for me?

Apologies - RW is doing the webchat remotely and we're having a few tech ishoes - we'll make sure we find this out for you before he heads off...

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:41:48


SO many amazing questions here, really hope you get a chance to answer BoffinMum's and some of the premmie mums here.

My question is what is the best way to handle the stage when they are crossing over between 'needs' and 'wants'? i.e. most of us accept that if a young baby cries they have needs that must be responded to, and that is important to their emotional development. And most of us accept that if you constantly give in to an older toddler or small child, that will be detrimental to their social development. But what of the middle stage, particularly a baby who tantrums early?

My DS began toddler-style tantrums (head banging, arms and legs flailing) from around 8 months. He is now 11 months (13 corrected) and really quite hard to handle (he's also a twin, so 1-1 time is limited)! I can't reason with him, I can't bribe him, I don't know how much he really understands about consequences, but I equally am aware that it's easy to fall into 'spoiling' habits by giving in each time he refuses food/fights nappy changes/getting dressed etc. Interested to hear your thoughts!

Dear twelveleggedwalk. I don't agree that when a young baby cries it necessarily has needs that must be responded to - and clearly giving into a child when there is a clear need not to do so is bound to be detrimental. It sounds to me most likely that your son will grow out of his current tantrums. Its a painful process and its very likely he will not understand consequences at this stage of developmemt. However if this pattern of behaviour continues it mught be worthwhile seeking professional help. In the meantime I suspect you may need to use a degree of firmness. I would add one thing - given that his twin is not showing this behaviour - it might be worthwhile checking with your Dr to make sure he doesnt have an underlying medical condition. RW

DameMargotFountain Wed 19-Dec-12 13:42:22

zzzzz i might be grin

ack, it's christmas, even professors have a sense of humour wink


RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:45:07


Hello Prof. Winston!
Does watching TV for an hour a day have a negative effect on a child's brain development? If a young child never watched TV would they be more advanced than one who watched TV a little bit each day or one who watched TV constantly? Do you think 'educational' programmes make a difference with regards to how much TV a child watches?

Dear milkyjo. I would have thought that watching tv for an hour a day is more valuable than staring through a dining room window. I would add that in general prolonged watching tv without parental supervision is not a good idea for any child of a young age. RW

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:49:41


I really enjoyed Child of our Time, and particularly remember the episode on gender.

I wonder if you've noticed while doing your Christmas shopping, how the marketing of toys these days is becoming ever more gendered?

Many shops selling toys (e.g. Boots, M&S) now market all their science toys as boys' toys for example. It's also pretty common to find all construction toys in "boys" and "girls" shelves full of domestic play and beauty toys, and all the arts & crafts.

I wondered what your view on this is?

If children are denied toys which marketing people deem as for the "wrong sex", do you think this could affect their development?

If so, do you think this has wider implications for our society?

I think this is interesting. There s some evidence that little boys tend to like mechanical toys and little girls toys to do with parenting. All this is highly controversial and politically incorrect but this apparent trend is not necessarily merely due to conditioning but may be innate

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:53:37


My DS has had a long series of imaginary friends - some of his descriptions of these friends are so detailed that it even lead to the embarassing situation where I sent a note to the imaginary parents of his imaginary friends at school inviting them round to play as I thought they were real.

He has ASD and problems distinguising between what is real in his head and what is actual reality. In your experience is this something he will grow out of in time, or can we intervene? He's 6.

I think this is brilliant. I had imaginary friends when I was 3 or 4 called Digger and Fidger and we used to have telephone conversations and arrange council meetings. My eldest daughter had Connie and Dettie who lived in the Finchley Road (I don't know which number or what they did there). I don't think it is related in anyway to a disorder - but surely is highly positive. Can't speak for myself but my daughter seems OK.

aufaniae Wed 19-Dec-12 13:54:56

Thanks for the answer smile

I wasn't asking if gender traits are innate however.

I was wondering what you think the effect would be of limiting girl's access to toys perceived as "boys toys" (such as science kits) and boys from "girls toys" (e.g. arts & crafts), even if they might like to play with them.

Do you think this could stifle their development?

Thanks smile

KvetnutsRoastingOnAnOpenFire Wed 19-Dec-12 13:55:41

ooh, I thought I was going to miss this, but got on line in time!

My question is:
are the terrible twos/truly bloody awful threes a new phenomenon? I know so so many parents of 2 and 3 year olds who are losing the will to live wondering why their child is such a contrary little being, and such hard work - but my parents/grandparents/aunts etc all say they never saw toddlers behaving this way 'in their day'. I'm wondering if it's a case of blanking the full horror of parenting a toddler from their memories, or if it is genuinely a new thing?

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:56:28


How much impact do you think stress in pregnancy has? I had a v stressful pregnancy with dd2 -- mainly due to xh-- and I've had a lot of problems with her behaviour and development. There are other factors influencing this as well.

There is some evidence that stress in early pregnancy - around 20 - 26 weeks - may be associated with some difficulties as some children grow up. But I suspect that a good postnatal evironment helps to ensure that these effects are not serious in most cases.

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:57:03

Interesting. Don't know.

TwelveLeggedWalk Wed 19-Dec-12 13:59:28

Thank you for answering. As they were 2 months they've been thoroughly checked by a barrage of doctors for all kinds of medical conditions! He did have reflux when younger, which I previously wondered if it contributed. Now I think it is just his personality (he is the spit of his father, who's capable of a good tantrum when flatpack furniture building, that kind of thing...!). THe only other thing I have considered is cranial osteopathy - do you have any views on that?

TwelveLeggedWalk Wed 19-Dec-12 13:59:38

2 months early sorry

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 13:59:48


Dear Professor Winston

I appreciate that everyone's medical circumstances are so very different but - if you could give just one tip to women going through IVF to increase their chances of success - what would it be ?

Kind Regards - and thanks for all your pioneering work.

Go to a doctor who gives you time and clinic that you trust and preferably one in a good academic centre (not purely a private clinic boasting about its 'excellent' success rates which may be unrepresentative anyway). Units doing serious research in universities are best in my view.

RobertWinston Wed 19-Dec-12 14:00:58


Is there any correlation in babies 'personalities' when young and how they act when adults. A very basic example would be a smiley baby - smiley adult.

Yes - I think there is a really strong correlation between early personality traits and later attributes.

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