bringing up bébé

Parenting and baby books aren’t the most thrilling to read – and I LOVE to read. I just finished Bringing Up Bébé and Pamela Druckerman does a fantastic job at comparing and contrasting parenting between French and American parents. I highly suggest reading the book and especially the buying the version with “Bébé Day by Day” that includes 100 keys to French Parenting.

Below I’m sharing some of my biggest takeaways from the book. Keep in mind – I am paraphrasing and not writing word for word. These are just my interpretations of the teachings.

  • During pregnancy, French women don’t follow strict diet/eating changes – they tend to eat the same
  • Very few women in France have natural births and its not viewed differently/negatively
  • French parents do not ‘over-parent’ – they do not provide their children with near as much attention that American parents do
  • Sleep schedules:
    • In France, they focus on teaching parents more about human sleep schedules. For example, babies have 2 hour sleep cycles and therefore they may tend to wake up and fuss every two hours until they learn this pattern. Adults also have 2 hour sleep cycles but we’ve conditioned ourselves to ‘sleep through’ these cycles. French parenting suggests that we let babies fuss for a little when they’re in between their cycles to teach them not to wake up every 2 hours.
    • French parenting suggests that parents do not feed right before bed. Babies will get accustomed to feeding and sleeping and therefore can fall into a vicious cycle.
    • French parenting suggests that once a child is 2-3 months old, you do not feed them between midnight and 5am so that they learn how to sleep through the night without constant feedings.
    • At 4 months, the first time they wake throughout the night and wont get back to sleep – give them a pacifier and let them figure out how to fall back to sleep
  • Feeding
    • If breastfeeding, French parents suggests that you do not give the baby a pacifier for the first 2-3 weeks so that the baby gets comfortable with the nipple
    • Most French parents have their babies on a strict schedule by the time the baby is 4 months old. Most babies are sleeping through the night and feeding at 8am, 12pm, 4:30pm and 8pm
    • “Dr. Bitoun says that in his years of campaigning for breastfeeding, he’s found that French mothers generally aren’t won over by the health arguments involving IQ points and secretory IgA. What does persuade them to nurse, he says, is the claim that both they and the baby will enjoy it.”
    • “Many French mothers would surely like to breastfeed longer than they do. But they don’t want to do it under moral duress or flaunt it at two-year-olds’ birthdays. Powdered milk may be worse for babies, but it no doubt makes the early months of motherhood a lot more relaxing for French moms.”
    • French women breastfeed on average for 3 months and there is no shame associated with this.
    • Why do French children eat so well? (According to the Commission Menu’s in Paris)
      • “Lesson number one is that there’s no such thing as “kids’ food.””
      • “The commission’s second lesson is the importance of variety.”
      • “Another driving principle of the Commission Menus is that if at first kids don’t like something, they should try it repeatedly.”
  • French parenting is strict on teaching patience. They suggest using the ‘pause method’ and not immediately reacting to a baby fussing/crying. Let the baby fuss and cry for a little before you tend to them.
  • French philosophy for development is the ‘awakening’ – which allows young children to ‘awake’ and ‘explore’ and ‘discover’ rather than pushing young children to learn their ABC’s, etc right away. The argument is that children will learn when they’re ready and this is the only time in their life when they aren’t in school and therefore should be given grace to experience an ‘awakening’ of their own
  • Daycare is viewed very differently in France – in France, childcare is provided and almost all families put their kids in daycare starting at a young age. They are not ashamed/worried and they actually really enjoy this freedom.
  • “In America, it’s accepted that when you have kids, your time is not your own. The kids need to understand that they’re not the center of attention. They need to understand that the world does not revolve around them.”
  • “French parents mean something different than American parents do when they call themselves “strict”. They mean that they’re very strict about a few things and pretty relaxed about everything else. That’s the cadre model: a firm frame, surrounding a lot of freedom.”
    • “”We should leave the child as free as possible, without imposing useless rules on him,” Francoise Dolto says in The Major Stages of Childhood. “We should leave him only the cadre of rules that are essential for his security. And he’ll understand from experience, when he tries to transgress, that they are essential, and that we don’t do anything just to bother him.” In other words, being strict about a few things makes parents seem more reasonable and thus makes it more likely that children will obey.”
  • French women focus strictly on exercise and getting their bodies back in shape at the 3 month postpartum mark. One woman’s example of dieting postpartum is that she pays strong attention to her diet and appetite Monday-Friday (no bread) and then eats whatever she wants on the weekend.

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