The Continuum Concept
My world view changed completely when I read Jean Liedloff’s book, The Continuum Concept. Her message is simple: in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings ~ especially babies ~ require the kind of experience to which our species adapted during the long process of our evolution. The fundamentals of TCC are:
- Constant physical contact between a baby and his mother (or as needed, from another familiar caregiver if the mother is dead or ill) from birth.
- Family bed: for the child to sleep in his parents' bed, in constant physical contact, until he leaves of his own volition (often between two to five years).
- Breastfeeding "on cue", that is, when the baby signals hunger, or the need for contact, in a non-distressed way.
- In-arms phase ~ being constantly carried in arms, and allowed to observe, breastfeed, sleep or rest while the carrier continues with daily life. The child will indicate a readiness for crawling at about 6 - 9 months.
- Instant responding to a baby’s needs, in a way that isn’t judgemental of the baby.
That the baby or child knows that his carers find him worthy, welcome and sociable. Many Western babies experience traumatic separation from mother at birth due to medical intervention, are isolated in cots, taught to ‘cry themselves to sleep’, fed on a schedule ~ usually with artificial milk and dummies. They are further isolated in nurseries, play pens, and discouraged from seeking attention from the main caregiver. Our culture teaches us to believe babies are ‘manipulative’.
The Continuum Concept teaches us that our evolution as a species has not prepared a child for modern parenting. As a result, he learns to feel bad about himself, and is riddled with guilt and shame. At The Mother magazine, we teach that children who have their continuum needs met grow up to have greater self-esteem, and become more independent than those whose cries go unmet.