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Parenting FAQs: Babies & toddlers

I'm exhausted! When will my baby sleep through the night?

There are as many answers to that as there are babies! As you've discovered, newborns typically sleep as much as 16 hours a day - but in much shorter stretches than adults do. It takes time to settle into a consistent night-time sleep pattern, as baby's nervous system matures and he's able to go longer between feeds. By the time a baby is three months old, they may sleep for five-hour stretches or more at night - a 6-month-old may sleep as long as eight to 10 hours at night, or even a little more. Or they may not. Don't worry that there's "something wrong" - some babies don't sleep through the night until they're a year old, and a happily sleeping-through-the-night baby can sometimes start waking up again while going through milestones like rolling over or learning to stand. You can help your baby develop good sleep habits by:

  • Establishing a bedtime routine. Nursing or giving a bottle, reading a bedtime story, and singing a lullaby - or whatever routine you choose - done at the same time every night tells your baby it's time to sleep.
  • Putting your baby to bed sleepy, but still awake, to learn to associate falling asleep with being in bed. Be sure to put baby down on her back for safety, and keep fluffy blankets and toys out of the cot.
  • Not jumping at the first noise. You shift position during the night, don't you? Well, so does your baby. Wait a minute to see if your baby settles back down before picking him up.
  • Keeping night-time feeds quiet. If you need to feed or change your baby in the middle of the night, don't turn the lights on or play bouncy games. Use a dim nightlight and speak softly, so they'll know it isn't playtime.

What vaccinations should my baby/toddler have, and when? Are these vaccines safe?

Immunisation protects babies, toddlers, and children against many childhood diseases that were once devastating and even deadly. Although these diseases are now rare in the UK, a drop in the level of immunisations saw measles rates rise such that in 2012 in England and Wales there were the highest number of cases for 18 years.

The vaccination programme for children is spread over five years - but most are given before they reach the age of one. They protect children from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib, pneumococcal infection, meningitis C, rotavirus, flu and MMR - measles, mumps and rubella.

Immunisations are often given more than once to make sure protection continues. Boosters are usually needed by pre-school age - five years old, and again before they leave school, between 13 and 18 years of age.

Immunisations can have side effects. In most cases, vaccine side effects are mild, such as fever and redness or soreness at the injection site. Your doctor can tell you how to minimise the effects of these side effects. In some cases, more serious side effects can occur, such as allergic reactions. Very rarely, severe side effects occur.

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