Guest Post: Q&A with Dr. Chris Whittle

Guest Post: Q&A with Dr. Chris Whittle

Hello all, 

I’m super excited to be working with Dr Whittle on hosting a Q&A guest post on all things baby/pregnancy. 

Thank you to those of you that sent in questions for Dr Whittle. He has chosen the top 5 questions and answered below. We hope you find this useful! 

Harps x

Dear Readers,

My name is Chris Whittle and as well as being the founder of High Street Huddle (an online store for new parents) I am a hospital doctor by day job. I’ve endeavoured to answer some of your questions to Harps as best I can as part of our quest at HSH to help smooth the journey for new parents!

1) Is it too late to form a sleep pattern for my 13 month old baby? 

While I am by no means an expert in paediatric sleep medicine, there might be a few parts of my general medical and neuroscience background that would be useful here; the things that we read about or hear in the media about ‘sleep hygiene’ are actually great tips for getting your little one into a sleep routine. This is not to say it’ll be easy (!) but these things can help immensely:

– Taking him or her to bed only once everything is ready in the room where he or she will be sleeping; this minimises disturbance time and maximises the room-sleep association

– Having the relevant room already dark and quiet; from a biological point of view this minimises sensory input and begins the hormonal sleep cycle

– Being consistent with the time and your vocal pre-amble to this habit; this is based in something called neurolinguistic programming and will help to form habit by repetition and association in your baby’s mind

2) is it “normal” for my 16 month old to be biting at nursery? Could it be teething related? Is there anything we can do to stop this?

If my friends’ experiences are anything to go by, toddlers biting is actually a very common problem, and one of the first difficult things about it is to not use the term ‘biter’ to label a child as this can reinforce or produce a self identity. It’s a good idea to ask others not to use the term either, nor phrases like ‘such and such is being a right little biter today’. Try to investigate the circumstances around each time it happens; is it when people get too close, or is it when your little one gets over excited? Understanding the context will help you to understand the reason behind it, so that rather than expressing disapproval without knowing the reason for the bite, you can address the underlying cause. If a toddler is biting because they are teething, for example, a teether or snack might resolve things and belay the habit where a telling off might have been confusing for them.

3) Do babies get the same benefits of breastfeeding if you mix feed at 5 months? 

Looking at the evidence for breast feeding, the conferred benefits (less chance of D&V, constipation, chest and ear infections) it is very difficult to give exact timings as to the benefits conferred.
As you’ll see at this link (NHS breastfeeding reduces asthma risk), which describes a systematic review of studies that look at the reduction of asthma risk, we cannot easily use randomised controlled trials – the best kind of study – to analyse this because it is not ethical to deny babies the benefits of breast milk purely for the purposes of a study. So we take systematic reviews of lots of other slightly lower quality studies and draw whatever conclusions we can from them. Because the other studies are by very nature heterogeneous (using different populations, different methods etc) a time period is difficult to extract with any statistical accuracy. 
So as a ball park the NHS currently recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around the first 6 months. But it is absolutely dependent on your circumstances and how feeding baby is easiest and safest for you. You will find this quote on the NHS website which I think is useful in answer to your question and a good summary of some of the research: ‘Any amount of breastfeeding has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.’

4) What’s the best cure for nappy rash?

The first thing to say with regard to nappy rash is that while most rashes are harmless and go away by themselves, there are some extremely serious causes and so you shouldn’t use internet articles or any other means to try to diagnose rashes yourself – always seek a proper diagnosis from your GP.

That being said, with a diagnosis of nappy rash there is no single best cure but you can take several steps towards getting rid of it:

– Air the area; while nappies can’t stay off indefinitely, airing the area will help

– Regular changing of nappies, and a wipe; this helps to keep soiled areas clean

– Barrier cream or ointment; it’s important to spread these thinly just before new nappies go on, for breathability

– Creams from your doctors; mild steroid creams (sparingly, for a maximum as prescribed) and/or antifungal creams (again as prescribed, beyond when the rash disappears)

– Occasionally if the rash is infected with bacteria it can need antibiotics as well. Again this needs guidance from your GP (who see these all the time), and there is no silver bullet answer I’m afraid!
5) What would you say are medical change bag essentials?

Along with the basics (a changing mat like these from Clair de Lune), baby wipes, bottles if bottle feeding), particular medical things that you might want to have with you on the move include:

– Plasters

– Antiseptic cream

–  Steristrips
These items, at least, you can trust are sterile if bought in a pharmacy in the UK. Further useful travel items include:

– Thermometer

– Calpol

– Dioralyte

– Any usual medication
These are useful because they come in specified age ranges so you can be specific for your baby or toddler, and secondarily because if you are abroad the English instructions for age related dosing will prove invaluable.

Incidentally on the ‘basics’ changing essentials front, baby wipes are very easy to make (here’s how) if you want to save some money from constantly buying refills!

Chris Whittle is a medical doctor and founder of High Street Huddle (, a retail tech company that uses a unique backend system to group new parents’ buying wishes and obtain lower prices on popular UK brands.

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