Book Review: “The Continuum Concept” by Jean Liedloff

Even though this book was originally published in 1975, it’s still valid today. In fact, while many of the continuum concept principles from Jean Liedloff are incorporated today through attachment parenting, the world at large is not paying heed to her advice.

The Importance of the In-Arms Phase

Babies need to be held all the time. Until they can crawl around on their own, they need to feel the presence of their caregiver, ideally 24/7. While it’s difficult to prove scientifically how the in-arms stage benefits infants through babyhood as well as when they’re adults, it’s easy to understand why that would be the ideal way to care for a baby. After all, they want to be held. And why shouldn’t we give them what they want? Plus, holding a baby is what its mother wants, too. It’s the natural thing to do before reason and logic kick in and demand alternative actions, such as putting them in a playpen or in a crib all by themselves.

Jean Liedloff’s book takes you through the journey of an infant who is denied the in-arms face by well-meaning parents. Just reading about it is heart-breaking. And while many mothers don’t let their babies cry it out, many infants in the modern world still spend a majority of their time in their cribs, strollers, and car seats.

Consequences of Missing the In-Arms Phase

Liedloff connects a deprived individual (who missed out on the in-arms phase as an infant) to be a victim. The sad part is that the mother was a victim to in most cases, too. Basically, nobody is really at fault here, since no adult in their right mind would consciously choose to deprive another human being. Unfortunately, the potential consequences of feeling unconditionally loved as a child and experiencing life from the safety of the mother’s arms could be varied.

It’s quite difficult to envision how far-reaching the problem is since we have become used to our society. But maybe the need for highs as achieved by taking illegal drugs or riding rollercoasters is something we have because we missed out on being held as an infant. Liedloff mentions a variety of other potential problems adults have when they’re trying to make up for the in-arms phase they missed as infants. However, all of it is conjecture on her part, which doesn’t mean it’s not true, but it won’t be taken as a fact by readers, either.

The Need for Unconditional Love

The in-arms phase only lasts for the first 6 to 9 months (or thereabouts) of a baby’s life. After that, they are ready to move about on their own, as long as they can return to the mother’s safety whenever they want. But the need for this safety net and unconditional love of their mother still has to be met for many more years to come. Your 8-year-old is not going to come to you as often as a 2-year-old for emotional support, but they should feel just as welcome to seek you out.

Accepting Your Child the Way They Are

Another idea that comes across really well in Liedloff’s book is that it’s important to accept your child (and everybody else) the way they are. But it’s really important to love your child and refrain from judging them, their actions, their likes and dislikes. Obviously, this is easier said than done. In fact, most of us may not recall experiencing unconditional love ourselves and therefore, we’re unable to give it to our children. However, one thing that is important to understand is that your child is not the one to provide you with that unconditional love. They need you to be there for them,  not the other way round. Otherwise, we’re hindering them from becoming a well-adjusted adult.

Your Baby Needs Hugs

If you haven’t given much thought to how you want to raise the baby or if you’re debating whether attachment parenting is right for you, you should read this book. It helps you understand why infants need you as much as they do, and why you should give them whatever they want. You cannot spoil a baby by holding them too much. However, you can harm them by not taking care of their needs.

Fortunately, there are many ways to incorporate baby care into your daily, busy life. In fact, taking care of your baby doesn’t really need to be your primary occupation (and probably shouldn’t be for sanity’s sake). You can use a sling to take your baby with you wherever you go, take care of the household, buy groceries, weed the garden, or help your kids with their projects. And if you end up going back to work, you may want to find a caretaker who will use the same principles to be with your baby.