Review of French Children Don’t Throw Food – Pamela Druckerman

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An entertaining and insightful comparison of French vs ‘Anglophone’ (American and British) parenting methods. Some revelations I found to be shocking, to the point I had to confer with my French exchange (from ten years ago) as to whether certain parts were legitimate. Everything I asked her she confirmed to be the set way in France – so I do believe Druckerman has really done her research.

As the quote suggests on the cover, I also felt inspired to move to Paris after reading this book. The French ethos of parents respecting their own time as adults, their approach to encouraging children to play and babies sleeping through the night at three months old all sounds delightful. I will definitely be applying some of the principles learnt in this book to my future parenting techniques.

Key Takeaways:

  • Epidurals in France are the norm as is not breast-feeding. Apparently the French can not understand why somebody would opt to be in more pain than necessary, and there is no shame in planning for an epidural pre-birth.
  • ‘The pause’. The book says that French parents believe in waiting a period of time when a child cries to see whether they will settle themselves. For some women, this begins as early as in the hospital after delivery. This is particularly important in sleep training, as the child will wake up between sleep cycles and crying is a natural response when waking up. However, by waiting to see if the child will settle themselves, they should learn to regulate the gaps between cycles and feel comfortable going back back to the sleep. Doing so means that most French parents have their children sleeping through the night from the age of three months. They also believe it teaches children patience, as the children learn that when they cry a parent will not drop everything to pick them up. My sister and her French husband have done this since their daughter was tiny, and she has slept through the night from about the three month mark – so there must be something to it.
  • Also on the sleeping front, the book says that French women also try to avoid as much as possible feeding their child from 12-5am. And if their child wakes up and can’t settle, they will change their nappy, comfort them, walk around the room if necessary, but avoid feeding them if at all possible. This teaches the baby’s stomach to feel a small amount of hunger (and be okay with it) and adjusts them to go through the night without feeding from an early age.
  • Feeding times – apparently the French resist snacking and tend to have universal meal times around 8am, noon, a snack at 4pm and dinner at 8pm. They encourage children to stick to these meal times as early as possible and Druckerman believes this contributes towards calmer meal times as the children are actually hungry.
  • Although the French are strict about some things, they also give their children plenty of freedom in other areas. These things may include children having permission to leave the table when they have tried a bit of each thing on their plate, or allowing a child to do what they like when they go to bed, as long as they stay in their room.

Criticism: The book does seem to be strongly pro-french parenting and anti anglophone styles. Having not lived in France myself I do not know for sure, but it does come across as a biased rather than balanced view of the two parenting approaches. I’d like to think the British and Americans don’t get everything wrong!

I found this book to be very informative and an enjoyable read. I intend to keep it on my bookshelf to refer to in future as I believe it provided some really useful and quite unique parenting techniques – however, whether they work is another question! I would recommend ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’ to anybody looking for a light-hearted pregnancy read whilst wanting to up their parenting knowledge.

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