I picked up a conversation about this book on twitter last week and was intrigued by the title. And then very grateful to be sent a copy for review. I was still so intrigued that I read it over the weekend, and had a few twitter conversations about it along the way.
It’s written in an observational or anecdotal style, but peppered with references to scholarly articles and research. The author is an American living in Paris with her British husband, and along the way, studying the differences between the parenting that she sees around her, and the parenting that she inherited and sees in her Anglophone friends and relatives.
There are many thought provoking differences. Some of them leapt out at me – particularly the idea that French babies sleep through the night from around 2 months old. I’ve never had a child sleep through from anything like that young, and the prospect of another couple of years of broken nights stretching ahead of me is depressing me horribly. So how is this achieved and is it anything I can emulate?
It appears that the process is one of leaving the baby to self soothe from around 2 months. French parents, it would seem, observe their children and their rhythms, and are aware that babies disturb every couple of hours, but if they are left to it, will soothe themselves back to sleep without assistance.
This however, contradicts everything I know about how you maintain a good breastfeeding relationship – as I understand it those middle of the night feeds are very important for building supply. Which leads to a second point – apparently breastfeeding isn’t big in Paris. I can’t find stats for this online, but it’s stated in the book that French women just aren’t hung up on it – they see formula as just as good in the developed world as breastmilk, and can’t quite see why someone would beat themselves up over it.
I’d like to look into this further. There are things about French parenting that sound like a fantastic idea – not least the suggestion that French children eat proper food pretty much from scratch. I can see how this is achieved – Smallest has a far wider range of acceptable foods simply by having been fed pretty much whatever we were eating, and from sitting up at the table with us from early on. I’ve never seen her throwing food either – she managed to knock her bowl off the table a couple of nights ago and it’s the first time I can recall her doing so pretty much ever.
All in all, I found this an absolutely fascinating recounting of our nearest neighbours and how they parent – with some tips that I’ll be considering further, but I’d also like to research some of the counterpoints further. I’d love a sleeping baby, but not if it jeopardises breastfeeding. As far as I’m concerned, that’s always been my parenting line in the sand.