It might sound too good to be true, but in France, babies and children sleep through the night, eat their vegetables and do what their parents tell them. In Bringing Up Bébé (2011), Pamela Druckerman, an American mother living in Paris, reveals the French parenting secrets she uncovered in her time abroad.
Sleepless nights are inevitable for new parents, right? Not necessarily! French children tend to sleep through the night, in some case starting when they’re just a few weeks old.
What’s the secret of parents who raise these quiet babies? It’s in how they respond to them.
Babies make a lot of noise at night, but their cries don’t always mean they need something. In fact, babies naturally wake up every few hours because they sleep in short cycles. Sometimes they wriggle or cry just because they’re trying to get back to sleep.
Also, it’s actually rare for a baby to need food during the night; digestion interferes with their sleep, just like it does in adults.
In 1993, the journal Pediatrics published a study by Teresa Pinella and Leann Birch instructing new mothers on how to soothe their babies. They came up with three rules:
Pinella and Birch also found that among parents following these instructions, 38 percent of their babies could sleep through the night after just four weeks, compared to just seven percent of those who didn’t receive the instructions.
You also need to wait before responding to your baby. Don’t intervene right away when they cry. Give them a chance to fall back asleep on their own – babies often aren’t fully awake when they start crying, so you might make it worse if you pick them up.
This doesn’t mean you should ignore a crying baby, but you should make the pause longer over time. Pause for just a few seconds with a newborn and increase the time interval until you’re eventually waiting a few minutes.
Babies need time to learn how to get back to sleep by themselves, and it’s your responsibility to help them develop that autonomy.