FEATURED Continuum Parenting and Attachment Parenting – What’s The Difference (And What Is Love Parenting Really All About)

Continuum Parenting and Attachment Parenting – What’s The Difference? (And What Is Love Parenting Really All About?)

So I posted a status on the Love Parenting facebook page yesterday asking what people understood to be the difference between Continuum and Attachment parenting…

And I heard crickets.

This wouldn’t be such an issue, except for the fact that these two parenting styles are what Love Parenting revolve around. Often these two labels can become confused, and people aren’t quite sure what makes them an attachment parent or a continuum parent. In fact, I had an email this week from someone claiming they didn’t count as AP because they didn’t co-sleep.

So lets look at these two parenting styles a bit closer and clear up some of the confusion surrounding them.

Continuum Parenting

This is what Love Parenting is all about. The Continuum Concept is a book written by Jean Liedloff after she spent long periods of time in the jungle of Venezuela, living with the Yequana tribe. She observed their way of life, how the children were raised, and how the people were the happiest she had ever witnessed. She surmised that this happiness came from the children being raised in line with their evolutionary expectations, and that in the western world, these expectations are often not met, which interrupts the continuum. This causes us to become stuck, unable to reach our full potential and happiness, as we strive to meet those unmet needs.

Continuum parenting is, simply put, parenting as nature intended. It is what you might find if there were no experts, no books, instead just our instincts to guide us.

What does Continuum Parenting look like?

On the surface, continuum parenting involves:

Full term breastfeeding  That is breastfeeding until the child naturally weans from the breast, typically anywhere from age 2-8 years old.

Bed-sharing  Again, until the child reaches independence and moves away from the family bed, which may be up until 8, 9 or even older, depending on the child, family circumstances and role models. For example, a child with older siblings, may choose to leave the family bed at a younger age in order to imitate their brother or sister.

Baby wearing  Keeping the baby in arms for the first 6-8 months of life is an important aspect of Continuum parenting. Of course, if we lived in the jungle, this would be an absolute must to protect the baby from predators and dangers, however, the in arms phase is so much more than a safety measure. Keeping a baby in constant bodily contact, ideally skin to skin with their carer, regulates the babies heart-rate, breathing and temperature, stimulates milk production and enables the baby to nurse without becoming distressed. It provides the baby with a stimulating and engaging world to observe from a safe viewpoint, allows the carer to get on with her life and her tasks, thus reducing the likelihood of post natal depression, or the shock that western mothers experience as their life is transformed in its entirety after having children. And finally, it enables the mother and child to communicate easily, letting the mother learn and respond to her babies signals. This leads me to the next point:

Elimination communication or Natural infant hygiene  The Continuum practice of recognising ALL of the babies signals, including the signals of needing to go to the toilet. Just as carers quickly learn how to recognise when their baby is tired or hungry, it is also possible to quickly learn their signals for needing to eliminate.

On top of these visible practices, there are several other factors involved in Continuum parenting:

Trust  Continuum parents trust their children to know what they need and make their own choices. They give value to a babies cry, knowing that it is a form of communication, not a method of manipulation. They recognise their child as an individual rather than as an extension of themselves and as such, will endeavour not to force a child in to anything they are uncomfortable with.

Adult led activities  Rather than the child focused days of many western families, Continuum families are more adult led. This means that the child has an interesting role model to learn from and imitate as the children are welcomed and included in daily tasks. Children will be involved in cooking, tidying, shopping and are likely to be brought along to anything the parent attends. I often get looked at with surprise when I turn up to an evening meal out with family, with my toddler in tow, having not even considered getting him a babysitter. Children are valued members of the family and expected to contribute what they can in the way of helping. This however, is something that is expected, but never forced.

The overriding message of the Continuum Concept is that children are social beings who want to meet the expectations of their elders. If we expect them to be kind, helpful and trustworthy, they will strive to meet those expectations. If on the other hand we expect the worse, then they will automatically be the worst, unable to break away from their evolutionary impulse to meet their parents expectations of them.

I could go in to so much more detail, but I will move on to Attachment Parenting now to save this from becoming a ridiculously long article.

Attachment Parenting

As stated by Attachment Parenting International, there are eight key principles to Attachment Parenting. These are:

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting  Or in other words, conscious conception – preparing for the pregnancy and bringing new life in to the world, emotionally, intellectually and physically.

Feed with Love and Respect  API recognises that breastfeeding is the optimal way to feed your baby, however if this is not possible, they recommend bottle nursing – imitating breastfeeding behaviours such as feeding on cue and in arms, to maintain a strong connection and meet the babies emotional and nutritional needs.

Respond with Sensitivity  Learning your babies signals and responding appropriately to them. Recognising the child’s strong emotions and treating them with the importance they deserve.

Use Nurturing Touch  API promotes skin to skin contact, baby massage, bathing together, baby-wearing and regular cuddles to meet the child’s need for touch.

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally  Meeting the babies needs throughout the night, in addition to their daytime needs. Avoiding the use of sleep training techniques and understanding that a baby needs his parents help to fall asleep, and that they are not able to self sooth. Not scheduling feeds, but again, feeding on cue when the baby is hungry. API promotes safe co-sleeping.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care This principle recognises the child’s need for the physical presence of a stable and consistent carer in their lives. This means that if the primary caregiver is not able to be around, they would choose alternative childcare with someone who the child is able to form close bonds with, boosting their confidence and reducing stress for the child during separations.

Practice Positive Discipline  A need for communication and understanding the child and their behaviour, in order to guide them gently through the struggles they may face, and aid them in developing a strong sense of right and wrong.

Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life  This involves the primary carer ensuring his/her own needs are met, that they have formed an adequate support system, and that they feel balanced in daily life, enjoying parenting and family life as much as possible.

As you can see from these two comparisons, Continuum parenting really does go hand in hand with Attachment Parenting, which is no doubt why the two are so often confused and intertwined. On the other hand, it is not necessary for an Attachment parent to follow all of the principles of Continuum Parenting.

It is, in my mind, unfortunate that many of the ideals behind Continuum Parenting have become lost, especially in the western world. However it is my passion for this style of natural child rearing that inspired me to start this blog and share the joys of Continuum parenting with the world. My own parenting style is first and foremost as a Continuum parent, which as a by-product, makes me an Attachment parent too.

It is not my business to tell anyone else how they should be parenting or why I believe the way I have chosen to do things is ideal. What works for my family may not fit right for yours.

The purpose of this blog is to share the things that I believe work – Not only for raising happy children and reducing the stress that can come with parenting, but to share that we don’t have to be in conflict with our children, that they are indeed social, cooperative and trustworthy little people who are not out to get us, and who don’t need to be trained or broken in order to comply.

Please, feel free to take what you like and leave the rest, after all, that’s what modern parenting is all about – sifting through a pick and mix of advice and tips until we find the right fit for us and our families.

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So tell me, where do you lie on the scale between Attachment and Continuum Parenting? Please share your thoughts in the comments below as I would love to hear them!

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35 thoughts on “Continuum Parenting and Attachment Parenting – What’s The Difference? (And What Is Love Parenting Really All About?)”

  1. This is a great post! Thank you for it! I am definitely an attachment parent, but my parenting style and my beliefs also align with most of the continuum parenting description. The only ones that I do not embrace are the EC and children going everywhere part.

    There are certain places, meetings, etc that I find are just not child appropriate, so it’s not fair to my CHILDREN that I bring them. However, as I described a few weeks back in my posts about taking my children to Mass with me on Sundays. . . my children do come “with the package” – BOTH of them do. And I am clear in my exchanges with those who oppose my dedication to attending Mass with my children that attending Mass is important to ME and that my children come along and are exposed is also important to me.

    This was a very informative post. I’m definitely going to bookmark it for further use and reference!

    1. I enjoyed this post so much, too. Thanks! Amy, I’m so glad to see your comments about bringing kids to Mass. I have a toddler and a newborn, and I struggle a little because it’s definitely harder to focus in Mass with the children, and even though they’re well-behaved, they can be a distraction to people sitting near us some times. IMany people have suggested that my wife an I go to different Masses alone, or one of us just skips Mass and stays home with the kids. My wife and I decided that we’d like to keep our children with us as much as possible, and it’s very important for them to see, at even a very young age, that we attend mass as a family.

  2. Well I’m probably more of an attachment then continuum parent. I do admire people who can do it and I feel sad that I seem to be lacking in trust… Also I do long for dinners out without the toddler. Maybe I’m a bad mom, but I really do miss just getting to sit and enjoy my food instead of chasing toddler around! I know a lot of it is down to temperament – he was never one to sit still and I find myself envying other moms with toddlers that just SIT for 15 min while their mom is having coffee and then they get up and WALK with her in the right direction. I do love my little man, but I think I’ve been feeling a bit of a failure lately :/ He was also very mean to my friend’s son of similar age (he just wanted to look at his toys and shared his ones already) recently and I’m realising that I’m dreading my son’s birthday party now, because I’m afraid he’ll be mean to other kids. Sorry for ramble! But I would like to be more “continuum” but I seem to just be exasperated and disappointed lately :/

    1. I don’t know your son’s age but they go through phases. My sweet little boy certainly has his moments where he can grab toys, hit… It is completely normal. For a while, it is their only way to really communicate and even now that he can talk, he just hit again the other day.
      I know it feels terrible as a parent and I always feel that it happens in situations where I feel judged or really want him to “behave” but he is expressing a frustration and needs our love (still working on that many times to just show love, not MY frustration).
      Also, the active toddler can be really tiring. I’m sure you are a great parent and you should get a break to nurture yourself. Don’t feel bad about it. We all need time to ourselves sometimes to be better parents.

      1. Actually, the continuum style affords a lot of opportunities for each parent to have a break – mirroring a tribal style (though admittedly not as closely as our species is designed for) my son enjoys being in the care of his father, and all of his grandparents too, meaning that I probably get more of a break than a lot of the parents I know. I am able to meet all of my needs along with his, and feel that they are both important and valid. Thanks for commenting!

    2. I always find, when there are issues that come up behaviour wise, the first step to making the issue disappear is to reconnect and have a few days chilling out, not rushing anywhere, just being together and communicating, filling up his cup and sense of security. Hard to know exactly the solution without all the details, but reconnection is always a good start.

  3. Love the Continuum Concept, and do follow it as a rough guide, but I always felt bad that I didn’t have a tribe for my little one to look up to and be a part of, and also that my daily activities really are so boring. I very, very recently read something in ‘Raising our Children, Raising Ourselves’ that has made me feel a little bit better about this, and I am trying to reform my way of thinking around this thought… “In the nuclear family the young child is conditioned to need one-on-one attention, which is neither bad nor good; it is just the current reality to enjoy and thrive on. With such an upbringing, children have the potential to grow up into independent thinkers and innovators like Einstein, Edison, and Mozart. They develop into compassionate adults because they experienced kindness, generosity, and love, and they become creative thinkers because their individual path is nurtured./ A child embraces with enthusiasm whatever culture he is born into. Nature made humans very pliable and capable of growing up well in more than one way. To pass on a love of life and inner peace we must embrace teh way ti is rather than wish for a different lifestyle…” Anyway it goes on, but find this philosophy to be useful to keep in mind when wanting to be a continuum parent.

  4. This is a great post! I had never heard the term “continuum parenting” before. I always considered myself most closely in line with AP but now I’m pretty sure I’m more CP! I have always said that I parent the way my and instincts lead me, and try to think of how I would do it if that I didn’t live in an age where they were books, blogs and websites telling me “what’s best”. I cosleep, babywear, practice EC, full term nursing and TOTALLY agree with the rest. The one that really got me was involving them in all the adult led things. That’s totally our family. So is Love Parenting the combo of the two styles? I agee with alot of the AP philosophies too and am intrigued by learning more about love parenting. Do you have any links with more info on it?

    1. Love Parenting is entirely my take on parenting. If you want to delve further in to it, I recommend my book, Trust Me, I’m A Toddler, which is currently available on Kindle or PDF, but will be out as a paperback in the next few months. Hope this helps!

  5. I actually just heard about Continuum Parenting for the first time. It probably describes my parenting style pretty well and is so much easier to explain/understand than AP.
    I probably would have done more EC had I known more about it earlier on and would I live in a warmer climate year-round. What we did made it a perfect continuum though 😉
    Thanks so much for explaining.

  6. Reblogged this on Mostly Crunchy Mama and commented:
    Hm… this is interesting. I’ve honestly never heard of the term “Continuum Parenting”. I like it though. It’s interesting to see the difference between that and AP, although to be honest, it seems as if I practice both of these to an extent. Does it really matter though? Do we need to be so focused on the proper labels, or actually implementing these strategies? I just follow my instincts.

  7. I’m more of a continuum parent, though before reading this article I never heard of the term. Thanks!

    I love the part about being adult focused and “continuing on” with life. I never liked how some say that your life is “over” once you have kids.

  8. Great article, I always kind of practised it without knowing, although I feel very bad for not having carried my baby more, I listened to people who were into the “western way” because it was my first baby and I was vulnerable, when my toddler was one she started hitting and that killed me to see her do that. After reading the Continuum Concept, I finally understand everything, it all makes massive sense and I now wish everybody would read that book, it s like a slap in the face!
    I m still breastfeeding my 2.5 year old and we co-sleep, she s very confident and loves meeting new people. I feel sorry for children whose parents disrespect them or don t give them the comfort they need, it s no wonder half the planet is neurotic. Thanks again for a great article.

  9. All these thoughts you share are so great. but how can you follow the principles of love parenting if you have two babies? One toddler and one infant? how can you give the same attention and care to both of them stressfully?
    Thank you
    Amanda Chrysaphi

    1. Part of the nature of Continuum parenting is child spacing, leaving a gap of a minimum of four years between each child in order to fully meet the needs of the first before having to meet the needs of a second. In the early years those needs are very intense and consume a lot of your energy and there are many studies which have identified child spacing as benificial for the whole family.

      Of course, I appreciate that for many people, this advise either comes too late, or they prefer a small gap for whatever reason. In these cases, compromise is the answer. You do the best you can do with the energy and time that you have. Tandem breastfeeding and tandem babywearing are options that many following this path choose to do in order to meet the needs of both children, along with continuing to sleep together as a family in a family bed.

  10. When I first “discovered” attachment parent and began to read about it I was so excited to see that the way I was parenting was a real thing (since I didn’t know anyone that parented this way). I only recently heard about continuum parenting. I definitely practice parts of both but rather than labeling myself and my parenting, as I previous had, I just like to say that I parent “naturally” as in I do what comes and feels natural to me. For me and my family that means breast feeding until my kids self wean, home births, bedsharing, babywearing, cloth diapering, home/unschooling, parenting without the use of punishments as well as many other things that can be labeled either AP or Continuum or both or maybe even neither.

    1. I tend to describe myself as parenting as nature intended or in to natural parenting. I don’t think anyone should conform to labels and have to tick every box to try and fit into a parenting type, it’s important to do what feels authentic to you, but sometimes it’s good to know what is meant by the different terms. Sounds like you are doing what feels right to you, following your instincts to guide your way!

  11. I would love to hear your thoughts on the section of the book (continuum concept) in which liedloff describes how the yequana don’t give their children a whole lot of ‘choices’ to make and instead bluntly tell them what the one option may be. I will look this part up asap and specify it here. I am interested because I feel like this may be a critical difference between continuum and attachment philosophy, as it seems in attachment parenting one strives to give their child choices and encourage their own decision making as young as possible. Thanks and I love your blog!
    http://www.grainfreechild.com

  12. Hi! I’m late to this thread but I am so thankful for your blog. I do however, wondered how I can help foster a continuum or attachment environment for my baby son? He is 7 months old. I work outside the home so he is cared for by his sweet babysitters Mon-Thurs (on Fridays my husband stays home with him). I come home everyday at lunch to feed him and he usually naps on me while worn at that time. I also come home mid-afternoon to feed him and reconnect (instead of pumping). We bedshare, I wear him often, I take him everywhere I go (and gladly!). But I would love some input on how I can improve his environment. I want to start having the sitters take him on errands, etc. They already wear him and take him on walks but I still would love for him to be involved in more adult activities. Any input is greatly appreciated! Xo

  13. Really lovely piece. I’m a writer for Holistic Parenting Mag and just found your blog. You and I have a lot to talk about, Sweet Mama.

    I’m in the continuum boat, all the way and beyond (if that were possible). 😉 I’d have breast fed longer, but ended at 18 months because I had a very low milk supply and was Guerilla-Style collecting donations of breast milk from friends and other mamas to feed my precious Beam. That got tiring… Yes, her immune system rocks!

    We still co-sleep. She’s 2 yrs 9 mos old and it’s me and her in her room and Papa in our room. Ha! That’s because I feel instinctively joined to this little wise being, and how could I NOT want to be near her all through the dreamy-surrendered-precious-resting night!? We’ll see how this goes… Only thing missing is more spice time 😉 with the hubby. It’s working out in general. All 3 of us co-sleep, when guests are visiting. That’s pretty sweet.

    My blog is called Leaning into Light and I think you’d love it. Here are a few specific pieces you might enjoy, but I sense you’d enjoy a scroll down the whole blog, too…

    Trusting After Trauma + Some Words for a Fireman
    http://www.leaningintolight.com/blog/trusting-after-trauma-some-words-for-a-fireman

    A Letter to Mr. Rogers on Thanksgiving
    http://www.leaningintolight.com/blog/a-letter-to-mr-rogers-on-thanksgiving

    Dear Daughter, Do You Want to Own Your Power?
    http://www.leaningintolight.com/blog/dear-daughter-do-you-want-to-own-your-power

    One Mother’s Response to California’s Mandatory Vaccination Law
    http://www.leaningintolight.com/blog/one-mothers-response-to-californias-mandatory-childhood-vaccination-law

    Where Have All the Fathers Gone?
    http://www.leaningintolight.com/blog/where-have-all-the-fathers-gone

    OK, all for now — MANY THANKS for your noble and overflowingly heartful work~

    Big Love,
    Jessica

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I’ve just been over to your blog and I love the positivity you’re putting out there. The piece on trauma was especially meaningful to me having just endured the most traumatic year of my life. Hard to let that stuff go, isn’t it? I hope all is well with your daughter now? Thanks for sharing, much love, Sam

  14. So I couldn’t sleep and was surfing the web when I stumbled upon this article and I am so happy that I did! I am a continuum parent 🙂 I honestly didn’t know that this was a parenting style. I was just doing what felt right for my baby boy. Ever since he was born he has been extremely attached to me. So I baby wear, he sleeps on my chest every night, and at all nap times. The only schedule we have for feeding / napping is whenever he decides to eat or sleep. He is 10 weeks old and I am the only one in the home that understands his cries / grunts. He is so cute because when he is held by anyone he immediately starts to fuss like he is hungry putting his hands in his mouth, and making boo-boo face until I hold him 🙂 once I got him it all stops 🙂 I love how close we are and how we understand each other. It drives the family a little crazy because they want to spend more time with him 🙂 I think it’s great though.

  15. With my first kid I was an attachment parent (and not 100%) and with my second I am definitely continuum… I regret not having done the same with my first because for me it is so more natural and instinctive. I feel I am doing the right thing. And yes, as I have given an immense amount of time and love to my toddler she happily stays with dad and grandparents from time to time! I really feel I have been rewarded for the trust I have put on my daughter with a lot of trust from her part. Thanks for the article

  16. Love this article. I’m definitely CP – oh, how reassuring to hear it’s normal to still be sleeping with my 4 year old! The one CP thing I struggle with is adult-centered activities, and I know I’m not alone. It seems that all the attachment-parenting, homeschooling, crunchy mamas I know all have lives that revolve around their children. I mean look, here we all are, discussing the minutiae of parenting styles rather than more adult pursuits:)

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