It’s a story as old as parenting. Mom wakes in the middle of the night to the sound of her baby’s cries. She gets up, picks up her fussy baby and sits in a rocking chair to start a late night feeding. Between nursing or the bottle, and the gentle motion of the rocking chair, the baby is soothed and drifts back to sleep.
It’s a lovely story. And while it may seem like an anecdotal tale, the fact is there is proof to back up the claims that holding your baby, and rocking him or her, not only has benefits for a newborn but also for the new mom. Whether in a rocking chair or a glider, rocking provides health and developmental benefits for your newborn and encourages bonding between parents and baby.
Here’s why a rocking chair for your nursery is perfect:
Health and Healing Benefits
No one knows what causes colic, but it is believed to occur in about 40% of babies in the United States. Colic is roughly defined as 3 or more hours of crying on 3 or more days of a week by an otherwise healthy baby and happens between two to three weeks old and five months. What we do know is that rocking helps to settle many babies who have colic. In fact, some parents report rocking is the only thing that would settle their colicky babies!
But the health and healing benefits of rocking go beyond just your newborn. Rocking can help mothers recover from C-sections as well. Some advice suggests that rocking can help to alleviate the symptoms of gas build up which can be particular painful after a Cesarean. It provides the gentle movement that a new mother can do immediately after giving birth.
Rocking may also help to reduce or prevent the emergence of varicose veins. Thanks to the motion required to move the chair, rocking can improve circulation and improve muscle tone in the legs.
There is also some evidence that rocking helps to reduce back pain, a frequent complaint of new moms. Rocking helps because the movement makes the body more aware of the position of the spine and lower extremities.
For both mother and baby, rocking can provide relaxation and sleep benefits. When you rock, your heart rate lowers and you relax. And, in a recent study, researchers found that rocking encouraged a better, deeper sleep. Those involved in the study fell asleep more rapidly, moved more quickly from light sleep to deeper sleep, and were able to better ignore disturbances that would normally have woken them up.
There are also several developmental benefits to rocking your newborn and infant. Babies are not born with a sense of balance or “place” in their environment. When you rock your baby, it stimulates the inner ear, which regulates balance. Known as the vestibular system, it controls equilibrium. So while your baby is falling asleep, their brain is practicing communicating with this system and helping to define balance.
Rocking is also believed to help babies develop, even before birth. Some doctors recommend that mothers begin rocking for 10-15 minutes a day, twice a day. starting in their eighth to the tenth week of pregnancy. This helps to develop the baby’s nervous system.
It is natural to cuddle, coo, talk and sing to your baby while rocking them, and these behaviors due more than make you smile. Because of the natural closeness holding your baby in a rocking chair encourages, your infant’s brain is stimulated, providing exactly what their growing brains need when learning to interact with the world outside of their mother’s body.
Bonding and Feeding Benefits
One of the most immediate benefits of rocking happens right after the birth of your baby. Bonding, or the emotional attachment between parents and their babies, happens in the hours, days and weeks after birth. For some bonding is immediate. For others, bonding can take some time. Both cases are normal and natural.
Whether you are building the bond or strengthening it, rocking is an excellent way to do it. By sitting with your infant, holding them, gazing at them, touching and rocking, the bond between parent and infant is developed. And since rocking can be done by either parent, it provides a way for dad to bond with baby as effectively as mom does.
Additionally, studies have shown that holding your infant stimulates parts of the brain that indicate to your baby that they are safe and cared for. A rocking chair makes these moments more precious by prolonging them. Allowing mom or dad to get comfortable and relax while soothing the baby helps to encourage longer cuddling time, giving the baby a greater sense of ease and safety.
Feeding is another bonding activity that can be made more pleasant for many with the use of a rocking chair. With the comfort of the chair and the rocking movement, nursing moms relax, allowing their milk to flow more freely and encouraging nursing behaviors with the baby.
The armrests on a rocker can also help to support you whether you are nursing or bottle-feeding. By having something to lean on, those long hours in the middle of the night can seem easier, and certainly less painful to your shoulders and back.
Lastly, rocking simulates the womb environment for the newborn. Before being born, your baby was always with you throughout your day as you moved around and performed chores, shopped and so forth, being gentle rocked as they floated in the womb. Rocking creates a similar sensation for your baby. In fact, women rock in a rocking chair at the exact same rate as they walk! As a result, this makes it feel to your baby like they are still in the womb, the place where they grew and developed for nine months. The outside world is a scary place to new eyes and ears.
s a result, this makes it feel to your baby like they are still in the womb, the place where they grew and developed for nine months. The outside world is a scary place to new eyes and ears.
With all these benefits, getting a rocking chair or glider for you and your newborn will give a little extra boost to your health and happiness. Make sure to get a chair that works well for you, with a good comfortable cushion, so you can spend hours enjoying this special time with your new family.