Last night I gave my older two children the usual hug and kiss goodnight. Then I told my four-year-old the same old, same old, "Brush your teeth, go pee and get into bed, and I'll be in to tuck you in and read you a story in a moment." His reply, "You don't need to tuck me in tonight mom." I was a little shocked, I had been tucking him in and reading him a story for a long time now. I thought wow, how is he going to sleep without a story and being tucked it? But I didn't argue and I settled into the sofa to read a book and I'm not going to lie, it was a nice feeling. I finally checked on him when I was ready to go to bed and he was sound asleep. Oh, how they grow up so fast and oh, how nice it is when they sleep through an entire night. It's been a few years since I've had a newborn, but that doesn't mean I don't remember the sleepless nights!
I had mentioned in a previous post that I recently came across a book called, Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, and even though my children are older I was still very interested to read it. I got the book from my local library the other day and read a few chapters last night. Pamela is an American journalist who moved to Paris, got married and so far in the book has given birth to one child, a little girl they've nicknamed Bean. Once Bean was born Pamela couldn't help but notice how differently French children act than that of American children. Many of her Parisian friends told her that their babies slept through the night by two or three months! She was shocked and decided to research this further.
It appears that French women are taught to observe their baby for a few minutes when it begins to cry. They do not immediately pick up the child, they wait to see if the child will self soothe. Now they may wait a few minutes for a newborn and bump it up to five to ten minutes for a two week old, but they believe they are already teaching the child patience. The other thing Pamela discovered was that when it comes to sleeping, we sleep in cycles. A baby may wake itself up between the cycles and an anxious mother who picks up the baby and feeds it or rocks it back to sleep is actually interrupting the babies ability to fall back asleep on its own. A calm French mother will let the child cry for five to ten minutes to see if the child will go back to sleep, in the meantime she is observing the child to see if it may in fact need a diaper change or is hungry. In the book you will see that there have been American studies on this method and the studies not only show that this works, they also seem to prove that it doesn't matter whether the child is breastfed or formula fed. I was always under the impression that breastfed babies needed to eat more than formula fed babies, but according to this book, that is not the case.
Pamela was also astonished to learn that many babies miraculously started sleeping through the night when the mother went back to work, which was typically after three months. It's almost as if these women share a form of telepathy with their babies. French mothers believe that a baby is an intelligent being and that you explain to them when they need to start sleeping through the night.
I have to admit when I was a new mother I would feed, change and rock my baby and still wonder 'why is she still crying'. I was not calm all the time and in fact the constant crying would make me very anxious. If only I had known I could say, "Mommy has to go back to work and you are 12 weeks old so you must start sleeping through the night," life would've been a lot easier! Now my children are too old to test this theory on, and I do not plan on having any more children, so I will never know if this truly works but I thought it was worth sharing.
I know there are a lot of parenting magazines, books, website and articles out there, but I just thought I'd share what people from a different country are doing. If anything can make life a little easier on parents then I'm all for reading about it. I'll share more about what I learn about French parenting, however, so far there seems to be a common theme. The theme is patience; they spend a great deal of time teaching their children patience, how to entertain themselves and how to cope with their own frustrations. So far it has been a very interesting read!
If your baby is "beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time," you're the grandma."
-- Theresa Bloomingdale