Is rocking your baby a bad habit?
By Camilla Ejsing, Child Occupational Therapist with +5 years of experience in young children's sensorimotor development. June 2020/@boerneergoen
Cradling your small child... to make him calm down and maybe even sleep, is often something I hear mentioned by others as "a bad habit". Here I will give my opinion on why, in my professional opinion, letting a baby sleep in a sling cradle that moves, carrying them in a swaddle while walking around or sitting and rocking a ball is not " a bad habit", but a method to help calm the nervous system of the young child, which even supports their further development.
Life outside the womb is a big upheaval for a baby's nervous system. The senses have all developed through fetal life and have been used extensively in the shielded environment where gravity was not a factor through kicks, buckets, mouthfuls of amniotic fluid, sounds, etc. However, a single sense only gets the opportunity to really develop when the baby is born, namely the sight. Baby is born into a world where there are suddenly a lot of visual impressions and the force of gravity to relate to and learn from.
The many new impressions are a drastic change
When a baby needs to find peace to close its eyes and sleep, it may be appropriate to create an environment reminiscent of life in the womb. In there, there were few visual stimuli, babies were closely surrounded by the amniotic sac they were in and were often also lulled to sleep through the rocking movements that occurred in the amniotic fluid when the mother moved around. Many of us who have experienced pregnancy have probably also experienced that the baby is completely calm and sleeps most of the day while we move around. When we lie quietly on the sofa or in our bed at night, baby wakes up and becomes extra active in there.
When an infant cries, it is fortunate that we adults almost always quite intuitively take the little infant up to us, embrace it and start rocking it, most often in a fixed rhythm, at 80-120x per minute, while humming or sings in a gentle voice. We instinctively know that sensory stimuli such as rocking up and down, which affect the archways in the inner ear, can help calm the nervous system . One hypothesis for why we seek the rhythm of 80-120x per minute is to teach the small body's nervous system to find and stay in one of the most important rhythms when we are at rest, namely the resting heart rate. Small children have a significantly higher resting heart rate than adults.