“Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman: Part One

I took a lot of notes on this book. I finished reading it about 6 months before my son’s arrival and I found it a refreshing and commonsense approach to raising a child. After reading several other parenting books, I liked that this was practical and executable advice. Unlike many other books I write about here, the entries on “Bringing Up Bebe” are not intended for deep introspection but rather as reminders to help me raise a child. I’ve found entries about the type of man I strive to be (link to “Rules of a Gentleman”, “Paddle Your Own Canoe”, and “Happy, Happy, Happy”) so hopefully some of these principles will help my son do the same.

  1. But they [French parents] aren’t panicked about their child’s well being. This calmer outlook makes them better at both establishing boundaries and giving their kids some autonomy.
  2. The French have managed to be involved without becoming obsessive. They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there’s no need to feel guilty about this.
  3. It turns out that to be a different kind of parent, you don’t just need a different parenting philosophy. You need a very different view of what a child actually is.
  4. the point in France isn’t that anything goes. It’s that women should be calm and sensible.
  5. French parents do offer a few sleep tips. They almost all say that in the early months, they kept their babies with them in the light during the day, even for naps, and put them to bed in the dark at night.
  6. “Sleep reveals the child and the life of the family.” “To go to bed and fall asleep, to separate himself from his parents for a few hours, the child must trust his body to keep him alive, even when he’s not in control of it. And he must be serene enough to approach the strangeness of thoughts that come in the night.”
  7. Start babies off on fruits and vegetables rather than bland cereals. Do not obsess about allergies. Think about “rhythm” and teaching kids to handle frustration. Value calm. Give real weight to the parents’ quality of life, not just the child’s welfare.
  8. “My first impression is to say, when your baby is born, just don’t jump on your kid at night. Give you baby a chance to self-soothe, don’t automatically respond, even from birth.” French mothers and nannies pause exactly this little bit before tending to their babies during the day.
  9. Another reason for pausing is that babies wake up between their sleep cycles, which last about two hours. It’s normal for them to cry a bit when they’re first learning to connect these cycles. If a parent automatically interrupts this cry as a demand for food or a sign of distress and rushes in to soothe the baby, the baby will have a hard time connecting the cycles on his own. That is, he’ll need an adult to come in and soothe him back to sleep at the end of each cycle. From about two or three months, newborns can connect their own sleep cycles if given a chance to learn how. Connecting sleep cycles is like riding a bike; if a baby manages to fall back asleep on their own even once, he’ll have an easier time doing it again the next time.
  10. If parents do “The Pause” in a baby’s’ first two months, the baby can learn to fall back asleep on his own. His parents won’t have to resort to “crying it out” later on. The Pause doesn’t have the brutal feeling of sleep training. It’s more like sleep teaching. But the window for it is pretty small. It’s only until the baby’s four months old. After that bad sleep habits are formed. Parents often need more coaxing. They’re opposed to letting their babies cry even a little.
  11. She didn’t rush over to them the second they cried. She sometimes waited five or ten minutes before picking them up. She wanted to see whether they need to fall back asleep between sleep cycles or whether something else was bothering them; hunger, a dirty diaper, or just anxiety.
  12. The authors of “Sleep, Dreams, and the Child (insert Amazon link) write that intervening between sleep cycles indisputably leads to sleep problems, such as a baby who fully wakes up after every 90-minute or two-hour cycle.
  13. In the first six months of a baby’s life, 50 to 60% of his sleep is agitated sleep. In this state, a sleeping baby suddenly yawns, stretches, and even opens and closes his eyes. The error would be to interpret this as a call, and thus derail our baby’s sleep train by picking him up.
  14. Sleep researchers, like French parents, believe that beginning very early on, parents should play an active role in teaching their babies to sleep well. They say it’s possible to begin teaching a healthy baby to sleep through the night when he’s just a few weeks old, without the baby ever “crying it out.”
  15. One rule was that parents should not rock, hold, or nurse a baby to sleep in the evenings, in order to help him learn the difference between day and night. Another instruction for week-old babies was that if they cried between midnight and five A.M., parents should re-swaddle, pat, re-diaper, or walk the baby around, but that the mother should only offer the breast if the baby continued crying after that.
  16. From the child’s birth, the mothers should distinguish between when their babies were crying and when they were just whimpering in their sleep. In other words, before picking up a noisy baby, the mother should pause to make sure he’s awake.
  17. Some French babies miss the four-month window. Experts usually recommend some form of crying it out. Sleep researchers aren’t ambivalent about this either. The meta-study found that letting kids cry it out, either by going cold turkey, or in stages, works extremely well and usually succeeds in just a few days. The biggest obstacle associated with extinction is lack of parental consistency.
  18. The common worry that a four-month old is hungry at night he writes, “She is hungry. But she does not need to eat. You’re hungry in the middle of the night too; it’s just that you learn not to eat because it’s good for your belly to take a rest. Well it’s good for the baby’s too.”
  19. The Pause works in part because parents believe that tiny babies aren’t helpless blobs. They can learn things. This learning, done gently and at a baby’s own pace, isn’t damaging. To the contrary, parents believe it give babies confidence and serenity, and makes them aware of other people. And it sets the tone for the respectful relationship between parents and children that I see later on.
  21. They’re called “meals.” And their sequence resembles a schedule I’m quite familiar with: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and an afternoon snack. In other words, by about four months old, French babies are already on the same eating schedule that they’ll be on for the rest of their lives.
  22. For the most part, French parents don’t expect their kids to be mute, joyless, and compliant. Parents just don’t see how their kids can enjoy themselves if they can’t control themselves.
  23. When I tell Bean to be “sage”, I’m also telling her to behave appropriately. But I’m asking her to use good judgment and to be aware and respectful of other people. I’m implying that she has a certain wisdom about the situation and that she’s in command of herself. And I’m suggesting that I trust her.
  24. Parents just don’t see how kids can fully absorb these experiences if they don’t have patience. In the French view, having the self-control to be calmly present, rather than anxious, irritable, and demanding, is what allows kids to have fun.
  25. French kids rarely whine or collapse into a tantrum, is because they have developed the internal resources to cope with frustration. They don’t expect to get what they want instantly.
  26. Having the willpower to wait isn’t about being stoic; It’s about learning techniques that make waiting less frustrating.
  27. Baking doesn’t just yield a lot of cakes, it also teaches kids how to control themselves. With its orderly measuring and sequencing of ingredients, baking is a perfect lesson in patience. So is the fact that French families don’t devour the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. They typically bake in the morning or early afternoon, then wait and eat the cake as their afternoon snack.

Here is Part Two to “Bringing up Bebe”. My apologies for these long posts.
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (now with Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting)

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