Bringing Up Bebe: A Book Review

I recently finished a parenting book called, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. 

Like most parenting books I’ve read, I’ve walked away with some good information and ideas as well as intentionally leaving behind some of the convictions of the author. Overall though, I found Bringing Up Bebe  to be an enjoyable and enlightening read.

Here’s a description of the book:

After becoming accustomed to the stereotype of screaming, ill-tempered children, the author, an American mother living in Paris was amazed at how well-behaved French children seemed to be. In this book she explains how parents can make their lives less stressful by taking some pointers from the French art of child-rearing.

Here are just some of her observations I found interesting:

  • Pregnancy isn’t a big deal. French moms don’t get too stressed about everything they eat, they don’t use it as an excuse to indulge, they don’t hover over pregnancy websites and books. They are much more calm about it all.
  • French babies typically start “doing their nights” (sleeping through the night) by 2 or 3 months. At night rather than rushing to their child’s every whimper, French mothers implement “the pause” at night.  This “pause” eventually teaches the baby to string together sleep intervals into a full night’s rest – something that’s simply not possible if the baby gets a boob in the face after every nocturnal peep (a behavior that, ironically, often TRAINS the child to continue waking up at two-hour intervals for several months).
  • French children quickly grow accustomed to three meals a day with a snack around 4 p.m. No snacking otherwise. This three-meal-a-day discipline teaches children delayed gratification as well as helps them to be hungry when meal times roll around. The French also strategically always serve meals in courses with veggies being first when the children are most hungry.
  • Childcare is the norm. With free, (yes, free) childcare being offered as soon as three months, most moms go back to work. If you are a french stay at home mom, you are in a small minority.
  • From the very beginning, French children learn to play independently. She comments many times about how French moms hardly ever set foot on a playground while comparatively, she observes an American mother following her child around narrating everything the child is doing.  French children learn to entertain themselves quickly simple because they are frequently given the opportunity to do so.
  • French parents seem to be very strict about some things (especially those affecting their own personal comfort) but also give children a lot of freedom in other ways. They aren’t “helicopter moms” by any means but French children seem to know when no means no.
  • The French don’t discipline, they “educate.” Even though these probably look very similar in the implementation, the mindset behind it is very helpful.
There were many more ideas that I will take with me but these are just some of the basics. Overall it seemed like the underlying theme of French parenting is the idea that parents’ lives don’t revolve around their children. While their choices and actions can appear to be somewhat selfish, I think it’s good for a child to learn early that the world doesn’t revolve around them- not even their parents’ worlds.
What I really liked about the author’s style is the fact that she wasn’t afraid to poke fun at herself and her parenting mistakes. I laughed out loud many times while reading this as well as empathized with her authentic confessions.
Like I said, I don’t agree with everything the French parents do but I do think there is some wisdom I can glean from those mommies half a world away. Obviously, my daughter will never be an authentic French baby, but because of this book she will be raised with some of the same convictions and methods.
Au revior!

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  1. Samantha says

    I recently read this book too. I actually started reading it while on maternity leave and finished it around the time I started back to work. I found several of the antedotes helpful, but not all that different from the way I was raised. I will say that I’ve tried “the pause” every night, and my son still doesn’t sleep through the night every night at 5 months old, but he also doesn’t wake up every 2 hours to nurse either. Overall I think the book had some good ideas and like you, I plan to incorporate some, but not all of them into my ever-evolving parenting style.
    Thanks for the review!