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Getting Baby to Sleep Through the Night, French-Style

Laura Moss

We seem to be having a French moment, between admiring the country’s well-behaved children and their very thorough postpartum care. There’s also a new book on the horizon about how France doesn’t have picky eaters.

I am in the midst of reading Bringing Up Bebe, and here’s yet another reason to be intrigued by the French style of parenting: most of their babies sleep through the night by two months old. The author, Pamela Druckerman, is mystified because no one seems to be sleep training or crying it out, and yet their babies are “doing their nights,” as they call it, so much earlier than many of their American counterparts.

Druckerman finally gets to the bottom of it after interviewing Tribeca Pediatrics French founder, Michel Cohen. The solution, as she jokingly calls it, is Le Pause. When their children wake or make a noise, instead of immediately going in to respond, French parents give them a minute or two to self-soothe, and maybe settle back down. If they don’t, only then do they pick up the child. She writes:

One reason for pausing is that young babies make a lot of movements while they’re sleeping. This is normal and fine. If parents rush in and pick the baby up every time he makes a peep, they’ll sometimes wake him up. Another reason for pausing is that babies wake up between their sleep cycles, which last about two hours. It’s normal for them to cry a bit when they’re first learning to connect those 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.

This seems to make a lot of sense to me, and I wish I had to known to try this when I was trying to get my own kids to “do their nights.”

What do you think? Is there something to this idea of Le Pause? Would you try it?