The Continuum Concept

Parenting styles for new parents have changed significantly over the past decade. In the 1950s it was almost fashionable to adopt an authoritarian stance with young babies, putting them to bed at very specific times and not giving in to their cries. Nowadays there are very different types of parents and one of the lesser known parenting styles is that of the Continuum concept.

The Continuum concept was developed by Jean Liedloff, an American author who developed the parenting method from studying the Yequana indigenous people of Venezuela. It rests on the idea that babies should be brought up in the same way as evolution has dictated, leading to several fundamental guidelines:

a) Babies should be immediately held by the mother after birth and from then on carried in a sling around the mother’s, or a primary care giver’s chest until they are old enough to crawl.

b) They should have constant access to breastfeeding, even during the night when they sleep in the parent’s bed or in a cot alongside it.

c) Their needs and discomfort, no matter how minor, should always be attended to, but not to a degree that would alarm the child and make them worry that something is wrong.

d) Babies, toddlers and children should be seen as potential equals to their elders, capable of everything that will eventually come to them and not protected from things that they could be learning.

Point D of these guidelines encompasses one of the most alarming sides to the Continuum concept, which is the use of knives. Because the children have observed their parents using tools such as knives from birth from being carried in a sling (point A), followers of the Continuum concept believe that they have knowledge of how to use them safely. Many parents find it hard to accept this, but are then astounded to observe 22 months olds cutting up bananas, tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables with no problems and no playing with the knives at all.

Another part of the Continuum concept that is hard to accept is co-sleeping. Many medical experts advise against children sleeping in the same bed because of the risks of suffocation, which is why side cots are now available at the same level as the parental bed. Liedloff maintains that infants usually leave the parental bed of their own volition at around two years, but for some parents this is simply too long. There are issues of breastfeeding for too long, not having a cot that is big enough and of course the effect upon sex life.

Followers of the Continuum concept believe that this kind of upbringing is best for baby because it gives them higher self confidence. Ignoring their cries, using pacifiers to replace the natural feeling of suckling and not having constant human contact is said to make babies feel anxious, unsafe, unsure and generally lacking in confidence, which they carry into adulthood. Whether they are correct or not we can only speculate, but there’s no denying that children who have had a Continuum concept upbringing, even in modern and fast paced life, are happy, grounded and content.

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