Rocking chairs have been considered nursery essentials for time immemorial, and though you may sometimes feel guilty about all the things you’re not doing while you’re just sitting and quietly rocking your baby – ignoring housework and laundry, emails and texts, meal prep and errands – I have wonderful news: you are completely justified in your enjoyment of this precious time because you’re actually providing a huge developmental boost to your baby while you rest, rejuvenate, relax, and bask in the glory of new motherhood.
In fact, the benefits of rocking can start even before your baby is born. And many aren’t exclusive to babies alone. Moms get just as much out of rocking as their infants do. The many important benefits of rocking your baby include:
In Utero Development
The Denver Developmental Test evaluated the mother-child attachment, the calming effect on the infant, and the infant’s responses to stimuli of babies who were rocked in utero. Results of the study suggest the tactile sensation provided by rocking before birth promote social, emotional, and motor development. The infants who were rocked in utero stopped crying sooner and were more quickly calmed by rhythmic patting and rocking after birth. They also smiled, held their heads up, sat, and stood earlier than the babies who were not rocked while in the womb. Additionally, the babies who were rocked throughout gestation showed better emotional equilibrium and a stronger mother-child attachment. To achieve these developmental benefits, Anne Ayres, an American nerve psychologist, recommends starting in the 10th week of pregnancy and rocking for 5 to 10 minutes, twice a day, to promote the health of your baby’s nervous system.
Labor and Delivery Relief
Lamaze International recommends moving freely during labor to improve your sense of control and decrease your need for pain medication. Therefore, one of the things they strongly suggest is rocking at home while you wait out your time before going to the hospital, as well as rocking once you’re settled into your birthing room at the hospital or birth center.
Faster Recovery from Cesarean Deliveries
In an article in the Physical Therapy Review, a study of mothers who’d had cesarean sections showed a faster recovery when they spent an hour a day rocking. A follow-up study showed c-section patients who rocked had less pain, walked with ease more quickly, and left the hospital one day sooner than non-rocking mothers.
Postpartum Weight Loss
Good news for postpartum weight loss too! Rocking burns about 150 calories an hour and will help mothers recover more rapidly from childbirth.
Bonding Between Babies and Adoptive Parents
Dr. Wendy Hanevold, a therapist and adoptive parent of two, encourages rocking as a way to foster a deeper attachment between parents and their adopted children. Dr. Hanevold believes rocking is so successful because it incorporates eye contact, smell, touch, and sound which all combine to promote a closer bond between parent and child.
Rocking mimics the movement the baby felt inside the mother’s womb. A baby who suffers from colic can be rocked to help reduce crying and promote sleep. In fact, rocking may also promote restful sleep in babies without colic as well. Most interesting perhaps is that mothers unconsciously rock their babies as fast or as slow as they naturally walk. Since rocking is a familiar motion to babies from their in utero experience, it makes sense that they would best be calmed by being rocked at that familiar speed. This also explains why mothers seem to have that “knack” for calming their babies faster than anyone else can.
Relaxing a Baby’s Heartrate
“When you rock your baby,” writes Linda Folden Palmer, author of The Baby Bond: The New Science Behind What’s Really Important When Caring for Your Baby, “his breathing regulates and his heartbeat slows, so he is able to relax, calm down, or fall asleep.” Palmer goes on to explain that daily rocking can also regulate your baby’s sleep patterns so he is able to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep longer. Much of your baby’s brain growth occurs during sleep, so a sufficient amount is essential for healthy neurological development.
Heightened Vestibular Function
The vestibular system in the inner ear helps the body maintain its “postural equilibrium”. That means, it helps a person interpret the position of their body in space and works to keep them balanced. It’s also essential in coordinating the position of our head with the movement of our eyes. As a baby is rocked, the fluids in the inner ear move, and this triggers the vestibular system – putting it to work practicing its communication with the brain, sending all the information it’s gathering about the baby’s changing body position and balance points.
At the University of Waikato in New Zealand, there have even been studies relating vestibular function to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Rocking has been shown to be beneficial for premature babies in reducing sleep apnea. Even though infant sleep apnea has been implicated as a precursor to SIDS, there is no definite proof of a direct link.
Increased Neurological Development
Author Linda Folden Palmer also tells us that babies who are rocked on a regular basis achieve higher scores on mental development tests. Rocking stimulates various areas of your baby’s brain, which fosters mental development and increases alertness and attentiveness when your baby is awake. Daily rocking can also improve your baby’s response to sights and sounds, so she can better process the world around her as she grows and develops.
Fostering Motor Development
The movement your baby experiences as you rock lays the foundation for future motor development. As your baby feels the motion, she becomes aware of her body as well as how your body holds and calms her. Over time, this awareness will allow her to begin moving in more advanced ways. Your baby’s coordination will be enhanced and this will enable her to better control her whole-body movements, as well as her body’s individual movements.
Where to Buy a High Quality Rocking Chair?
Each of these adorable, comfortable rockers and gliders can be found at your local USA Baby. There are so many styles, fabrics, and patterns, you’re guaranteed to find one that perfectly fits your size and shape, as well as your décor. Best Chair and Dutailier are the manufactures chosen by USA Baby for their unparalleled style and durability. Your nearest locally-owned and operated USA Baby is ready to help you select the perfect rocking chair as early as your first trimester so you can begin giving your baby every developmental advantage possible.