Is French Parenting Better than American Parenting?

I love to learn about child-rearing practices in different cultures. Especially cultures where women get a super long maternity leave and extremely high-quality daycare. Yeah, I’m a total francophile. So when I found this book about French parenting, you better believe I was intrigued.

Image result for bringing up bebe

This book is well-written and has humor that any woman can relate to. Its about an American mother’s experience observing the common behaviors and patterns in French parenting. I especially loved the parts about sleep training, meal times, and learning to wait.

Some of the key takeaways are:

  1. French women do “the pause” to help their baby sleep all night, usually by 3 months.
  2. French women teach their babies to wait from the beginning.
  3. French babies eat what the family eats, and the baby just has to “taste” it.
  4. If the baby is happy and safe playing on his own, the French just let the baby “live his/her life.”
  5. The French are strict about bedtimes, T.V., and meal times, the rest of the time is unstructured. French children do not snack outside of the 4:30 pm snack time. From three months on, they eat (drink formula or breastfeed if they aren’t having solids yet) breakfast at 8 am, lunch at 12 pm, a snack at 4:30 pm and dinner before bedtime at 8 pm.

Buy it here on Amazon You can get it for less than $2 used (plus shipping). Trust me, it’s worth it. Here’s why:

  • It will give you permission to practice self-care.
  • It will give you and your baby adequate rest.
  • It will help teach your babies patience and independence.
  • It will help you teach your children self-discipline.
  • It will help you to create boundaries and set limits.

But Let’s Talk About Sleep Training

There are so many schools of thought on sleep training, and if the way you are doing it with your children is working for you, Amen sister, I’m so happy for you. But if you and/or your baby are tired and exhausted and co-sleeping is turning into more “co” than “sleep”, this is the book for you.

But sleep training isn’t easy. With my son, it was simpler but with my daughter, I struggled. She learned to sleep through the night easily enough by learning “the pause”, but falling asleep by herself was a different story. It was very difficult for her because she was stimulated  by my presence and didn’t know how to fall asleep on her own. It wasn’t until she was 8 months that I finally decided to let her cry-it-out which was very difficult but necessary for both her and I to receive adequate rest.

Did these ideas work for me?

For the most part, yes. I found this book while I was pregnant with my first and reread it when I had an about to be 15 month-old and a 2 month-old. I tried doing “the pause” with my eldest and he slept through the night by about 1 month old, and was sleeping for 10 hour stretches at night at about 2 months old. The same thing is happening with my youngest.

Does breastfeeding make a difference?

The way I fed the baby doesn’t seem to matter either – I formula fed the oldest and breastfed the youngest. While I do think many factors are at play, like how much your baby weighs etc, I do think the way you parent at night makes a difference.

The way “the pause” works : you “pause” when your baby makes a noise or cries in the night time – only for a few minutes, and you see if the baby was just waking up between sleep cycles. If the baby still cries after the pause, go ahead and feed the baby or change her diaper or do whatever you think she needs.

Aren’t newborns supposed to eat every 2-3 hours?

I think moms aren’t told enough that if the baby is eating well, wetting plenty of diapers, gaining weight and otherwise has no other health problems, it’s OKAY to let them sleep and stop waking them up to feed them every 2 hours. I asked my lactation consultant if I could let my baby sleep and that is what she told me. I think sometimes parents can inadvertently train their babies to wake up in the middle of the night. But , again, every situation is different, and every family has different needs and desires.  I think this technique is worth a try, though, if you want to get some more sleep yourself, and definitely seek help from a professional if you have concerns.

Wait, aren’t kids supposed to eat 6 times a day?

I am well aware of the ideas here in the United States about how many snacks toddlers are supposed to have, but I have tried to keep the same schedule outlined in this book, with meal times only 4 times a day. Not only has this taught my children patience and self-control, it has forced me to learn more self-control as well- because I have to set a good example, after all! My kids have done just fine without frequent snacking and they are hungrier for the healthiest meal of the day at our house – dinner.

The Allure of French Mothers

One thing I perceived about French mothers in the book was a lack of this sense of martyrdom and competition that I see in motherhood in the United States. These mothers don’t seem to lose their sense of self. They remain in touch with their other roles and interests in life. And they don’t neglect their husbands. They seem to have this elegant maturity, a natural balance, and acceptance of their role. They seem to have peace.

I was eclectic and funky before kids, why not still be me after kids?

 

And speaking of self-care and setting limits, here is a design I made.

So do I think French parenting is superior?

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, and no such thing as a perfect mom, I must say that what is outlined in this book has much wisdom to be gained from it.

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