Sleeping Babies, Adventurous Eaters and Patient Tots
Pamela Druckerman's "Bringing Up Bebe," The New York Times best-selling book, discusses the parenting wisdom she gained as an American expat experiencing pregnancy, birthing and raising her first child in France. Here are five things you can learn from "Bringing Up Bebe:"
- Pregnancy Is Not a Buffet Pass
Druckerman suggests that the French don't share the relaxed attitude towards diet that Americans have when it comes to pregnancy. French women place an emphasis on maintaining their physiques and healthy eating throughout pregnancy. While pregnancy weight gain is inevitable, it is not used as a pardon from healthy eating and regular exercise. The Mayo Clinic states that "eating for two isn't a license to eat twice as much as usual," and suggests that women "use healthy lifestyle habits to manage your pregnancy weight gain, support your baby's health and make it easier to shed the extra pounds after delivery."
- Childbirth Is Not a Competitive Sport
A trip to the pregnancy section in American bookstores can be overwhelming. "Bringing Up Bebe" suggests that childbirth is a no-fuss proposition for the French. They have no debate about childbirth techniques, and they don't view epidurals as poison or weakness. The French approach to childbirth is decidedly less stressful than that of its American counterpart, which may treat childbirth as a competitive sport.
- Babies Can 'Do Their Nights' by 6 Months of Age
Perhaps the most frustrating and mystifying topic Druckerman explores is the phenomenon of French babies sleeping through the night -- also called "doing their nights" -- as early as 2 months old. The prevailing attitude in France is that a baby will sleep once she teaches herself to. Jennifer Schindele, a certified pediatric sleep consultant and the owner of Gift of Sleep Consulting, agrees that babies do have the ability to sleep through the night at around 4 months, but states that babies "need to be feeding well and gaining [weight] well for this to be a possibility." Schindele recommends that parents feed their baby upon waking, "so that [parents] know the baby is rested and ready to eat, taking in better and more complete feeds."
- Adopt the French Attitude Towards Food
Druckerman discusses the diverse palates of French babies, likely attributed to eating at the family table, enjoying the same foods from the beginning. "The baby-led approach is to let the baby join in the family meals whenever they are taking place, but at this stage the main purpose is socialization, not nutrition," says Gill Rapley, innovator of the baby-led weaning movement and co-author of "Baby-Led Weaning," of starting solid foods.
"Assuming a six months start, the aim should be to offer a wide range of different foods in graspable sizes and shapes, and let the baby decide what to eat." Rapley favors introducing babies to the same food as the rest of the family for several reasons: babies enjoy a variety of flavors, they may refuse fewer foods as toddlers if they are already familiar with them and babies like to eat what they see their parents eating.
- Patience Is Possible
In France, babies are given the space to learn how to sleep, children sit through multicourse meals because of the social importance of mealtime and kids have the capacity to entertain themselves because they've been given the freedom to do so. French mothers view life as a balancing act between the roles of wife, mother and career woman, with each respective role as important as the other. In terms of parenting, this translates into a more hands-off approach. When parents view their children as individuals, capable of exploring their independence and the world around them, they are able to exercise this extension and understand patience.
Lauren B. Stevens read "Bringing Up Bébé" in 2012, while awaiting the arrival of her first child. A parenting writer, Lauren's essays can be found in multiple anthologies, on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mammapedia and her own blog, lo-wren.com.