Physical Friday: Benefits of Rocking

The opening topic of a junior-level university lecture I attended was “How to Calm a Crying Baby.” I chuckled as I recalled all the times my babies have fussed and I’d tried everything I could think of to calm them down. My babies love to be swaddled and to be rocked. Of course both of those were on the list along with diaper changes, feedings, singing, pacifiers, and changing positions of the baby.

I was beginning to wonder if this lecture would be worth my time when the instructor went off on a tangent about rocking. He shared some pretty interesting information that I thought I’d pass along. First, mothers rock their infants at the same rate of speed at which they walk. Since rocking is a familiar motion to babies from their in utero experience, it only makes sense that they would be most calmed by being rocked at the same speed at which their mothers walk. What I find more fascinating is that mothers unknowingly rock their babies as fast (or as slowly) as they walk. And yet, that is precisely the most calming speed for their babies. Which also explains why mothers seem to have “a knack” for calming their babies faster than anyone else. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve refrained from offering to take a crying baby. I’m pretty good with my own kids, usually, but that doesn’t mean I’m a super-comforter!

The second tangent about rocking showed how rocking is important and necessary for baby’s development. The rocking motion helps a baby organize the vestibular system which controls equilibrium, or balance. As a baby is rocked, the fluids in the inner ear move around which triggers the vestibular system to action. While the baby is calmed and rocked to sleep, this system is hard at work practicing communicating to the brain all the information gathered about the baby’s balance. I love this because all the times I’ve just sat and rocked my babies, ignoring chores, ringing phones, and errands, are completely justified because I was promoting my babies’ development. The next time the current baby insists I drop everything and rock her, I will remind myself it’s as important as tummy time to help her development.

I recently learned that children between 3 1/2 and 4 years of age go through a major physical development stage which leaves them awkward and clumsy until they get a handle on their new skills by about age 4. I was thinking about that in relation to rocking. It leads me to believe that rocking continues to be a necessary part of how we interact with our little ones. And it’s not always the calm, rocking-to-sleep motion; it doesn’t always happen in a rocking chair. Often Sammi and I “rock” when we dance together or she bounces on my leg or a variety of other times when we are physically close and moving together.

  • SkylarKD

    Wow, interesting stuff! I’ve never read that anywhere before, but it makes perfect sense!

  • Princess Mommy

    I remember standing in line at a store once (without my kids)and the woman behind me asked if I was a mom. I asked how she knew and she said you were rocking! I guess I was so used to doing it and I guess holding my groceries set off something in my subconscience. Interesting stuff.

  • Kara

    That’s amazing – what a cool post!!

  • Melitsa

    Rocking is still so much part of my day. lol. I was reading how spinning on a chair ( slowly) was good for the development of vestibular system and helped them become organisation in What’s going on in there? by Lise Eliot, PHd. ( Great book) Here’s the tip in a parent hack.
    http://www.parenthacks.com/2006/07/spin_him_right_.html

  • Sell…Party Of 3

    what a good post! thank you for the info!

  • Erin

    So interesting! I have noticed that India has been totally clumsy (as in falling down the stairs over and over at my parents’ home). Now it makes a bit more sense!

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