Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Recommendation: Bebe Day by Day

I loved reading Bringing Up Bebe (review can be found here), so I was delighted when I realized that the author published a follow-up to the book that is more of a succinct summary of the original book's main points, called Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting

I definitely recommend reading the first book before the second one. In isolation, the second book probably wouldn't have as much of an impact, since each principle is only explained in a paragraph or so. 

However, since it's been a while since I read the first book, the second book was a perfect refresher. Here are some of the principles that really resonate with the way Matt and I choose to parent:
  • Don't Panic About Sushi [while Pregnant]: Although I don't eat raw fish because I'm a vegetarian, I appreciate the idea that we shouldn't go through pregnancy within a "culture of fear." I still eat soft cheeses and go in hot-tubs that aren't too hot and sometimes sleep on my back.
  • The Fetus Doesn't Need Cheesecake & Eat for One (and a Bit): The recommendation is to eat about 300 extra calories a day when pregnant. I feel like in American culture, pregnancy is often seen as the time to indulge because it's the one time we are allowed to gain weight without being made to feel bad about it.
  • Be Polite [to Baby]
  • Don't Stimulate Her All the Time
  • Nudge Him onto a Schedule
  • Make Vegetables a Child's First Food: I agree that rice cereal is very bland and that we can more quickly introduce interesting foods to babies. That's why I love the Organic Baby & Toddler Cookbook. It's written by a European and it seems to introduce more flavorful and complex foods early on.
  • Do "The Pause": This strategy is about waiting a little bit before responding to a baby's cries in the night (approximately five minutes--give or take, depending on the family). The delayed response time gives babies a chance to connect their own sleep cycles more often and fall back asleep. According to the book, French babies--on average--tend to sleep through the night more quickly than American babies. Although I don't think I would want to do this with an infant during the Symbiotic Period (which is the first 6-8 weeks of life, during which Montessori believed intense bonding occurs), I might consider this strategy when our next baby hits two months-old.
  • Sleeping Well Is Better for the Baby
  • If You Miss the Window for the Pause, Let Baby Cry It Out
  • There Are No "Kid" Foods & Everyone Eats the Same Thing
  • There's One Snack a Day: Although Henry eats two snacks a day, I agree with this idea that children will be more likely to eat healthy lunches and dinners if they aren't snacking all day long.
  • Don't Solve a Crisis with a Cookie
  • Let Kids Cook
  • You Choose the Foods, She Chooses the Quantities
  • Drink Water: Although we do let Henry drink juice at other people's houses, we typically only serve milk and water at our own house.
  • Eat Chocolate & Let Them Eat Cake: Although we don't keep a lot of unhealthy food around, we do try to model for Henry how to eat sweets in moderation. We tend to eat really healthy food all week long and then treat ourselves on the weekend.
  • Don't Teach Your Toddler How to Read: I agree with the idea that it's really not useful to make toddlers memorize a bunch of things in order to look smart. They need to spend most of their time working on fine- and gross-motor skills, self-care, language development through authentic conversation, nature exploration, etc.
  • Don't Rush the Developmental Stages
  • Teach the Four Magic Words: I agree with the emphasis on explicitly modeling, teaching, and expecting good manners.
  • Encourage Insouciance 
  • Back Off at the Playground
  • It's Not Just about Outcomes
  • Give Kids Lots of Chances to Practice Waiting
  • Slow Down Your Response Times
  • Treat Kids as if They Can Control Themselves
  • Don't Let Your Child Interrupt You: We haven't started on this one yet because Henry is experiencing such a language explosion. However, I know that this will become increasingly important to us.
  • Don't Interrupt Your Child
  • Give Kids Meaningful Chores
  • Build a Cadre: This idea of building a clear structure of boundaries and then giving children freedom within the boundaries really resonates with me.
  • Don't Become a Referee
  • Keep the Risks in Perspective
  • Don't Raise a Praise Addict
  • Encourage Kids to Speak Well
  • Show Kids That You Have a Life Apart from Them
  • Don't Become a "Taxi Mother"
  • Your Baby Doesn't Replace Your [Partner]
  • Your Bedroom is Your Castle
  • Be Clear-Eyed About How Hard Kids Are on a Relationship
  • Pretend to Agree
  • Make Evenings Adult Time
  • Say "No" with Conviction
  • Say "Yes" as Often as You Can
  • Explain the Reason Behind the Rule
  • You're Not Disciplining, You're Educating
And here are some of the ideas I don't want to incorporate into my own family:
  • Pregnancy Is Not an Independent Research Project: Although I agree with the overarching idea that we shouldn't go too crazy as we prepare for motherhood, I do think there's a lot to learn and think about in preparation for such an undertaking. I'm glad I spent a lot of time learning about how to optimize my health, figuring out what kind of birth made sense for me, learning about the Montessori approach to raising infants, etc.
  • Epidurals Aren't Evil: Although I agree with the idea that natural childbirth shouldn't be viewed as a "heroic journey in pain tolerance or early proof of the trials a mother is willing to undergo for her child," I do think we have to be cautious when it comes to interventions. While many of the drugs that are used during medicated childbirths have been tested separately, there have been fewer tests on their combined effects. Yes, children are quite resilient, but the younger they are, the more fragile their systems are. We're seeing more and more children affected with neurological issues these days (autism, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, etc.). Although there isn't a lot of research on the topic, I still think it's better to be cautious when it comes to exposing ourselves and our babies to toxins.
  • Baby Formula Isn't Poison: Again, I agree with the notion that mothers shouldn't become martyrs and that breastfeeding shouldn't be seen "as a measure of the mom," but I do appreciate the cultural shift that has happened in America toward embracing the benefits of breastfeeding. I personally believe that breastfeeding is far superior to formula in most cases and that we give our babies the most solid foundation when we breastfeed them. Of course this doesn't mean that anyone should feel guilty if they can't breastfeed or if they make the switch to formula for various reasons that make sense for their families; we have to do our best as parents and then forgive any gap that exists between where we are and where we wish we were.
  • 50/50 Isn't the Gold Standard: Although I agree that everything doesn't have to be split exactly evenly and partners' contributions can look different, I do think the concept of 50/50 should absolutely permeate our relationships.
  • Treat Men Like a Separate Species
 I never expect to agree with 100% of something I read. I still thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!

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Marinda Wood said...

Oh please don't let your child cry it out!

Babies cry because that is their only way to communicate. They cry at bedtime because they need us to help them to learn to fall asleep. You wouldn't ignore a preschooler who was saying "mom I'm scared being alone so I can't fall asleep" you would help them to feel safe etc so they could fall asleep.

It doesn't teach them to fall asleep on their own it forces them to.
from Dr. Sears: "Baby loses trust in the signal value of his cry – and perhaps baby also loses trust in the responsiveness of his caregivers. Not only does something vital go "out" of baby, an important ingredient in the parent- child relationship goes "out" of parents: sensitivity. " http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/fussy-baby/letting-baby-cry-it-out-yes-no

another resource: the no cry sleep solution by Elizabeth pantley.

Sorry for using your blog as a soap box but I just don't want anymore mom's to think they have to let their babies cry it out.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Marinda! Please don't apologize for using my blog "as a soap box." You're always welcome to share dissenting opinions!

We didn't teach Henry to sleep through the night because we felt like we "had to." We did it because we knew that we would be better parents for Henry if he learned to get his calories during the day and had continuous sleep through the night (starting the process no earlier than four months and finishing by six months, which our pediatrician recommended).

I definitely take bonding and attachment very seriously. It's one of the reasons I try to have homebirths. When I had to transfer to the hospital, I requested that Henry never be separated from us and that all procedures be performed in our room. Also, the Montessori method is very focused on building strong attachment and trust during the Symbiotic Period (which is the first 6-8 weeks of life). Also, I believe that attachment and trust are the foundation for independence and confidence. I completely agree that what happens to us as babies is incorporated deep into the very psyche of our being.

We followed the method illustrated in Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child (or whatever it's called) where you let the child cry for five minutes and then go in to soothe them. Then, if necessary, you let them cry for 10 minutes and go in and soothe them. Then, if still necessary, you let them cry for 15 minutes and go in.

The process was not as traumatic as I worried it might be. The first night, Henry woke up three times. The second night he woke up two times. The third night he woke up once. After that, he has pretty much slept through the entire night (aside from when he's sick or we're traveling). I did not feel like the process caused him to lose trust in the responsiveness of his care providers. We build up trust with him all day long. And, at night when we were sleep training, we were still responsive; it's just that we delayed our response time a little bit.

It wasn't an easy thing to do because I didn't know if it would have an adverse effect on Henry. But we also knew that we would be better parents for Henry if he learned to sleep through the night (because we would get more sleep which would make us more patient, happier, and more connected as a couple). I read blogs of attachment parents who continued co-sleeping and eventually had one parent sleeping with one child in one room and one parent sleeping with another child in a another room. I also read blogs of parents who still breastfeed their two year-olds in the night. I completely respect the decisions that other families make for themselves, but those arrangements wouldn't work well for our family. We definitely don't base our decisions on what's best for us as adults (since, obviously, we have to majorly adjust our lives to meet Henry's needs), but we do look at the family as an entire system and figure out how to best meet everyone's needs.

Thanks so much for engaging in this conversation! I think it's important for both perspectives (and other perspectives!) to be represented on the internet.

Have a great Tuesday!

Allison El Koubi said...

Hey Sara!
I know how excited you all must be for your little one to arrive soon.

Just wanted to add a few thoughts to the discussion Miranda started. With Marc (now 9.5 months), we definitely instituted "le pause" and it has been very successful for us. He has been sleeping 10-12 hours continuously at night since he was 5 months old (when his ped. told us that if he's slept through the night a few times, then he can do it all the time). One of the signs that he is ready for bed is that he gets pretty fussy and starts to cry. After I feed him, I put him on his child bed, turn out the light and close the door. He may cry for a little bit (rarely more than 10 mins) but he usually goes to sleep pretty quickly. One thing I have learned, though, is that he definitely will NOT go to sleep if we are in there with him. A friend who was babysitting just couldn't leave him crying and stayed in there with him...which meant Marc was awake when we arrived home! After we got the friend to leave the room, we kissed Marc goodnight, shut off the light, closed the door, and he was asleep within minutes. Sometimes I think we end up keeping babies awake with our attempts to soothe them!

Of course, I just have this perspective with Marc, who is a pretty easy baby, I have to admit. Maybe my tune will change when another one comes along :)

Hope your last few weeks of pregnancy are smooth!

Bridey said...

"we have to do our best as parents and then forgive any gap that exists between where we are and where we wish we were"

I love this idea - the parenting guilt doesn't help anyone.

Nora said...

*sigh*. didn't know this author wrote a second book.

I wanted to give some voice to the issue of class-based divides in parenting practices in the US that, at least from my perspective, seem to be at play in the extreme popularity of this book among upper-class American moms. These books seem to be hard-handed critiques of American middle class/ working class parenting, masked under a culture comparison. I believe part of the reason they really resonates with wealthier American moms is that upper-class parenting actually differs quite a bit from other types of parenting styles found in the US (note: anyone who's in the 30% of Americans who have a 4-year college degree are, in some way, part of a wealthier minority). The women who like this book tend to like it because it reflects practices they already DO in their parenting, and makes them feel Parisian. Rather than encouraging upper-class American women to think, "wow, there is a huge difference between how I parent my kid and how that other lady in the grocery store is parenting their child, and that is largely due to differences in income, education, and class background," this book lets those women think, "I KNEW it! I'm a Parisian at heart!" Which feels good.

To me this is dangerous, because it masks class divides in the name of "culture," and, in doing so, naturalizes class difference in the US.

Irene Tan said...

Enjoyed reading this post a lot but I don't agree with allowing a baby to cry it out at any point. Babies are people, if they are crying it is because it is the only way they can communicate. There are many ways to encourage baby to sleep through the night without having to resort to crying it out... anyway I don't want to get up on my soap box about that but I do feel that that is the biggest part of the post that I did not agree with.
I went back and read about your birthing experience and that resonated with me a lot. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful birth with our son, he was born after a straight forward 12 hour labour, most of which was done at home and the actual delivery done in hospital (my choice as I did not feel comfortable to do a home birth). I personally felt like a bit of a hippy because most people I know either had or wanted epidurals and intervention in their births so I felt grateful that we were able to have our baby without too much intervention and I have been able to nurse my son - he is 16 months old tomorrow and I have no intention of weaning him, he is weaning himself slowly.
Anyway thankyou for writing this post, it is a lovely list of things to think about.

Anonymous said...

Love this post. I personally find it very interesting that most mothers who have looked into and enjoy Montessori principles enjoy her book, and that the controversy surround Druckerman's book(s) are largely focused on the notion that it is attacking American parenting.

In a lot of cases, it appears that those who attack her book haven't actually read it, or chose to ignore the parts where she clearly isn't being dogmatic. (Mentioned in my review of the book http://whenthediaperleaks.com/2012/09/05/in-defense-of-bringing-up-bebe/ )

Personally, I'm willing to accept that her perspectives on American parenting may be narrow due to her limited experience with the American families and incidences she meets, and to write a book that sells she is unlikely to have a very nuanced viewpoint. I do not consider it a treatise on the 'high class culture' being French denotes. The 'French' differentiation is just a gimmick for her to sell her book. There's no point in reading if we can only agree or disagree with books. We do not have to function on absolutes.

So to me, it is not a dangerous book that brings forth class divide. Though there is a class crisis of perception (and child-rearing) in the US. And it is up to us in our daily interactions with strangers, to be able to broach that in a gentle, friendly manner. I am still practicing how to do it!

I believe that children were not born so we can serve them simply because they are helpless and cute, (and then expect them to be independent when they are no longer cute!) but guide them to be able to work well and contribute to society. They do not have order in their minds, but we do, and we have the responsibility to show them that order. So to cater to their every whim when they act upset only serves to tell them that they are the center of the universe. I watch my child, and when I know that he is crying about something important I react to it, that way he knows to express himself when it is important (wet diaper, hunger, pain) and not waste his time always fussing when it is small things he can learn from (pick himself up, clean up the mess he finds so unbearable).

I trust him to be capable, and often he pleasantly surprises me.

He is nearly 17 months old now, and goes calmly to sleep when I put him on his mattress for naps and the long haul, waving 'bye bye' to me (or my husband). He know he is tired and needs it. When he wakes up he walks out of his room to find us and to play.

Anonymous said...

Oh and I also ate a lot of sushi with my first pregnancy. I had such a craving! We also believe the benefits of fresh fish oil for our fetus far out weigh the risks of parasites.

Thank you for making this succinct list from the book. It is awesome that you find time to read in your day. Do you set aside a time or do it on the go?

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, whenthediaperleaks! Thanks for so eloquently stating my sentiments exactly so I can just say "ditto!"

Nora, I didn't read the book through any sort of intellectual/critical lens; I was simply reading it for parenting advice that resonated with me. I find these kinds of cultural comparisons to be reductionist. I honestly don't think the Parisian part of it had any appeal to me.

I'd be interested to hear what your thoughts are about the differences between parenting styles within different socio-economic groups in the U.S. As a member of the middle/upper-middle class who enjoys doing research about parenting, I find that I am more exposed to messages from the Attachment Parenting philosophy and that I read more about very intensive parenting styles that require putting the baby at the center of everything. I particularly enjoyed this book because it's about a more moderate approach. On the one hand it's about meeting the baby's unique needs but it's also about helping the baby fit within the system of the family and recognizing that even young infants are incredibly intelligent and are capable of more than we think they are. I've done very little research into the relationship between class and parenting styles, but this more moderate approach actually seems like it might be more reflective of middle class and lower class families who are balancing various economic realities alongside their children. I think it appeals to people because it's more moderate. Parenting recommendations used to be very draconian (don't spoil your baby by picking it up!). And then the pendulum swung in the complete opposite direction (never let your baby cry!). This book is more centered, which is why I think it appeals to people. The message is, "You can meet your baby's needs for attachment, love, and care AND continue to live your life and meet your needs."

Hi, Irene! Thanks for sharing your perspective! I agree that babies cry for a reason, but I personally believe that sometime that reason is, "I'm really tired and my body and brain need sleep but I'm having trouble putting myself to sleep." As they get older, that reason can become, "I'm really tired and my body and brain need sleep, but I would rather socialize!" As a mother, I work really hard to meet all of Henry's needs for attachment, trust, care, love, and sleep. For me, sleep training fits within our approach. For others, it definitely doesn't!

The reason I keep talking about it is not because I'm trying to convert people to sleep training. I talk about it because I feel like I'm a hybrid parent. On the one hand, we opt for home births, co-sleeping for the first two months, breastfeeding for a least a year, and baby wearing during early infancy. On the other hand, we follow our pediatrician's advice to sleep train between 4-6 months, nudge our babies to drop their nighttime feedings when their bodies are ready, encourage our child to walk everywhere independently as soon as he's able, let our son use real glass cups from the very start, etc. I don't feel like there are a lot of voices in this hybrid space.

Hi, Bridey! Your baby is so adorable! Congratulations!

Rachel Pippin said...

I've seen this idea that better sleep makes you a better parent come up on your page a couple times and I just wanted to share an article that tackles that idea. http://evolutionaryparenting.com/sleep-a-misguided-and-unhealthy-obsession/

Nora said...

Sara - I feel ill-equipped to give any reasonable overview of class differences in parenting in the US. Just off the cuff, the issue of to-do-attachment-parenting or not-to-do-attachment-parenting-in-order-to-live-my-own-goals-and-dreams feels very much like an upper class motherhood debate that only makes sense to people with a certain level of educational attainment and career prospects. So maybe this book just fits into a debate that's very class-specific, and leaves working class folks both in France and in the US out of it. But as I implied earlier, I haven't read the book (though I skimmed/ speed read the first one).

I did a library search but couldn't find anything directly on class divides in parenting values in the US. This book looks partially relevant: Unequal childhoods : class, race, and family life / Annette Lareau.

Anonymous said...

Oh cool. It just so happens that I came across a (somewhat long) speech given by Annette Lareau summarizing her research on Unequal childhoods. It is pretty awesome. Not exactly about baby rearing though - more on parenting styles in relation to child rearing comparing people from different economic/educational backgrounds and how it has an effect on their children. Unfortunately not surprising, children's economic and educational achievements very highly follow their parents. She states what she observes in parenting styles, and why. I figured, actually, after I watched her awesome speech here, I probably don't need to get the book. http://youtu.be/z1ortYT4TWg

While talking about class (I realize we're getting a little bit off topic here) I also saw this news today about something Finland has been doing since 1939 for all expectant mothers. It is awesome support. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22751415 I believe acknowledging the class issue calls for practical ways society as a collective has to do to equalize it.

Emmalinda said...

Do you have any research/sources that show a correlation between drugs used in medicated childbirth and autism/ADHD/sensory processing disorder in children? I would hate for a parent of a child with autism to read this and think that their choice to have an epidural played a role in their child's neurological issues. Without research cited to back that up, that's a pretty big correlation to make.

Irene Tan said...

Hi Sara

Yes I agree - I am not anti sleep training at all I was only referring to the fact that leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep when they are so young does not sit well with me and in our house I have never let my son cry himself to sleep. I meant that I encourage sleep through patting to sleep etc, not just leaving him to sleep and encouraging him to sleep at the appropriate times and to sleep through the night. Anyway, we all have different points of view and I was still pleased to read your post, it was very informative and listed a great deal of issues that I think about regularly. I found that the encouragement of sleep and sleeping proper hours has resulted in at least us knowing if something else is wrong (e.g. not well, teething etc) so I do agree that babies need to sleep properly. Just to emphasise I do think your post was great and I enjoyed reading it and really admire your dedication to the undisturbed birth and post birth nurturing, it is so important to slow things down when it comes to these things.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Emmalinda: I wasn't asserting (as fact) that there's a correlation. I was simply stating my personal opinion/worries about why I try to avoid labor/birth drugs as much as possible. And even though I tried to avoid them with Henry, I still ended up needed Pitocin.

Sorry for the confusion.

Betsy said...

Hi Sara, Thanks for reviewing this book.Have been thinking of replying for a while, so pardon the essay!
I had big hopes to be a cloth diapering, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding A.P. mom.I thought it would come so easy to me, so natural. But with a baby born at 10lbs, babywearing left me aching in all sorts of unknown place. My son wiggled, squiggled, and squirmed any time her was touching someone which made co-sleeping good near impossible. I encapsulated my placenta and still suffered from postpartum depression. I hoped to be the ultimate mom with breastfeeding my helpless child, but ended up feeling incredibly drained and defeated each time it was time to nurse. I feed him on demand, following the child, and didn't sleep more than 2 hours straight (2 HOURS!) for 8 months, and not more than 3hours straight for a year. I loved my child dearly, but felt overwhelmed, exhausted, and awful about the whole "mom" thing. Then I read "Bringing Up Bebe". How liberating! Not that I swung the pendulum full swing, but I took note of an entire country of moms who don't let it define them if they can't do all of the above (I am sure plenty other defines them, no doubt, but this is just how I read it.) I found a life where singing "The Wheels on the Bus" each and every time my toddler asked, wasn't the mark of a good mom. I found a world where just because you have a glass of wine at week 35, everything in the world is not wrong. And most importantly for me, I found a motherhood where the mark of success was not how much your died each day to the desires of your children. I still am a deeply caring mama, but by new liberating terms, a hybrid like you :-) I'm pregnant and will still exclusively breastfeed, try out co-sleeping, and babywear as I can. But this time, I will feel good to nudge a child toward a schedule. I will feel good to go take a yoga class even if its during feeding time (my husband is capable of a bottle feeding). I found this book to be a great perspective, taken in stride, that children are to be part of the family, not the center of it and that life with them can be emotionally gratifying for you as an adult. p.s. Not that I agree completely, but it does help to think of my husband as a helpless oaf when I feel overwhelmed by the demands that seem to be all on my shoulders :-)

Erin Curran said...

Betsy, your post made me think of how much I like Waldorf's concept of
"rhythm". Carrie Dendtler's Parenting Passageway blog (http://theparentingpassageway.com/) taught me a lot about how important it is to have a daily, weekly, even seasonal rhythm to help the whole family function well. And she's very AP (but not in a way that would have mother loose herself and her sanity). She really, really emphases that parenting is hard and that we have to take care of ourselves - so pray, meditate, find time for adult conversations, dates, build community of support. She also promotes "gentle discipline" while encouraging parents to claim their authority as the leader and benevolent guide for the family. It's interesting but I think her take on Waldorf combined with AP gets at a lot of the same things as this book. Of course, there are lots of places where they are not aligned at all. Interestingly, I chatted with two Waldorf teachers once and they LOVED "Bringing Up Bebe"!

Ultimately, it seems everyone is a little bit hybrid! I like aspects, but not all of, Montessori (esp. practical life), Waldorf (rhythm , festivals and not rushing childhood), Reggio (project and process), AP (respond to child's needs, but I don't interpret that as looking the same for a 1 year old as a 1 month old). I am also significantly shaped by my experience as a preemie/NICU/special needs parent. No one philosophy fits me perfectly. Sometimes that frustrates me and I feel insecure that I don't fit 100% but when I connect with my authentic self I know I must "take what's resonates and leave the rest".

Sara E. Cotner said...

I'm really thankful for the thoughts you added to the discussion, Betsy and Erin! I feel so fortunate to be able to connect with such thoughtful people from around the world via this blog. Thank you!

Julia. said...

In refernce to breast feeding as the superior method of feeding children: I have read that in Sweden, a country that hugely supports breastfeeding, it is recommended to feed until the age of 6 months due to the toxins that exist in all of our bodies. Even if you eat organic and do all you can, toxins are found in fat and therefore in high amounts in breast milk. In addition, many mothers are simply unable to produce milk and I feel they should not be made to feel like bad parents because of it.

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