Friday, September 21, 2012

Bringing up Bébé

I loved reading this book, “Bringing up Bébé,” written by Pamela Druckerman.  A lot of what she said describes how I was raised (by European parents), but no one does this anymore (in the English speaking western world). We all dutifully follow around our kids and 'helicopter' them. Sad really, and I kind of I wish I had read it sooner, although I don't agree with all of the ideas in the book. We didn't have lots of friends with kids before we had the first. The few family members we have nearby weren’t involved with us.  Other friends, schools, doctors and community also followed the same parenting style, or critiqued our style, our kids or both.

Waiting as a parenting strategy.  From the time they are newborns, French parents wait for a moment before responding to a cry to see what the cry might be about, and this is opposite to what the doctors tell us in the US.  They tell us to respond immediately to a baby's cry and that you can't spoil them by responding to their needs.  They also teach that the baby's self esteem comes from how 'quickly' you respond to their needs.  At one end of the spectrum is neglect and the other end is rushing at a cry - I am guessing the AAP assumes there is no in between. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry?  However, French kids raised with this strategy get more opportunities for practise self control, and more time to settle themselves and practice waiting.

Babies are gently encouraged to sleep nights from an older newborn age.  Parents wait longer and longer during cries, and soon the baby sleeps nights.  La Leche League would frown on this, so I breast fed on-demand day and night, but felt miserable for months from exhaustion.  Who has the luxury to take naps during the day for months on end as LLL suggests?  

Babies are thought to have some 'intuition or understanding,' and parents respond to them as if they are tiny little humans. That is unlike the 'clean slate' babies we think we bore.  Children are expected to have some privacy and parents don’t expect to be involved in all the child’s experiences and thoughts.  Perhaps because they have been in day care since they were babies, this also allows to parents to separate a little easier. Perhaps some separation anxiety is actually parental anxiety?

Babies are put on a feeding plan including 4 meals a day; this is not for the newborns, but they make older babies wait longer and longer until they are eating/nursing 4 meals a day.  Then, since the baby will be hungry, it will eat a more varied diet and be a little less bored during meals. Also, the French get their kids involved in cooking and preparing food from a very young age. Dessert or snacks is one of the meals (the afternoon meal of course), so the kids don't feel deprived and gorge on candy.  The US is criticized for giving snacks every hour or two for kids in almost every kids program or class. 

The French also give up breastfeeding a little too soon for my comfort, but the mother’s sanity and convenience are paramount for them - it is inconvenient to have a breast available for all meals, for months on end.  AAP suggests breastfeeding for at least a year, and please look at the LLL website for more information on the paramount importance of breastfeeding.  However, there is something tempting in just considering your own needs first before deciding on a strategy that might be cumbersome in the future.

The French love their day care and crèches - staff are trained, well loved and respected professionals.  The French put their babies in crèche from as early as possible.  This is opposite to what we do here in the US.  We wait till as late as possible to go back to work and try to work part or flex time.  The merit here is that the system is helping take care of the kids while you work, while here in the US, it is very cumbersome to take care of kids (such as during summer) and work a full time job.  A lot of families have only one job because they can't find affordable quality care for the time they are not in school.  So if you did want to go back to work after having kids, then you could. 

French women resume their pre-baby identities and lifestyles.  They lose weight as soon as possible and wear the same clothes they had before the baby.  There are no mom jeans or sweats worn as a stay at home mom.  They resume their pre baby lifestyles too.  Seems like they want as little lifestyle to change as possible.  The American parents seem to morph in to a separate being after childbirth.  Different clothes, buys organic food, mom & baby activities etc.

This concludes part one of my book review, as there is so much to discuss.  Of course I expect some responses from you folks, especially if you have heard of or read the book. 


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