What I’m Reading: “Bringing Up Bebe,” The Pause

Technically, I’m done reading Bringing Up Bebe, but there’s so much to discuss! Today, I’ll talk about “la pause” or “the pause.” Essentially, it’s the idea of allowing a baby to self-soothe, pausing before intervening. Now, this blog isn’t really intended for parents of babies, but this idea applies across the board. It’s all about giving children the freedom to gain independence.

For babies, this means not intervening the minute they cry. For starters, by rushing in and picking up the baby every time he makes a peep, the parent could unintentionally wake the baby. But there’s more:

“Another reason for pausing is that baies wake up between their sleep cycles, which last about two hours. [I've noticed sleep cycles can be as short as 35 minutes, particularly at nap time.] It’s normal for them to cry a bit when they’re first learning to connect these cycles. If a parent automatically interprets this cry as a demand for food or a sign of distress and rushes in to soothe the baby, the baby will have a hard time learning to connect the cycles on his own. That is, he’ll need an adult to come in and soothe him back to sleep at the end of each cycle,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 45).

By not pausing when a baby wakes up, we end up teaching them to wake up at every sleep cycle and depend on mom and dad for middle-of-the-night soothing.

“It’s suddenly clear to me that Alison, the marketing expert whose son fed every two hours for six months, wasn’t handed a baby with weird sleep needs. She unwittingly taught him to need a feed at the end of every two-hour sleep cycle. Alison wasn’t just catering to her son’s demands. Despite her best intentions, she was creating those demands,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 47).

Does this relate to older children? Absolutely! It’s all about using your power as a parent, through whatever technique, to teach our children to become independent. Whether you learn to pause when your little one is a baby or don’t learn to do so until he’s 5, it’s serves as an important philosophical parenting decision. Understand that coddling a child doesn’t do him any good. He will need to assert independence at some point in life, and the earlier he does so, the more capable he’ll be.

“Behind this is an important philosophical difference. French parents believe it’s their job to gently teach babies how to sleep well, the same way they’ll later teach them to have good hygiene, eat balanced meals, and ride a bike. They don’t view being up half the night with an eight-month-old as a sign of parental commitment. They view it as a sign that the child has a sleep problem and that his family is wildly out of balance. When I describe Alison’s case to Frenchwomen, they say it’s ‘impossible’–both for the child and his mother,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 48).

And don’t discount the importance of sleep in older children. Good sleep habits begin in infancy.

“There’s growing evidence that young children who don’t sleep enough, or who have disturbed sleep, can suffer from irritability, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, and poor impulse control, and can have trouble learning and remembering things. They are more prone to accidents, their metabolic and immune functions are weakened, and their overall quality of life diminishes. And sleep problems that begin in infancy can persist for many years,” (Bringing Up Bebe, p. 50).

So whether your ultimate goal is establishing good sleep habits or teaching independence, be sure to wait–to pause–before intervening.

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