Movement is at the very core of how children develop intellectually, emotionally, socially, and of course, physically. Here at Moving Smart we foster children's naturally move-to-learn style while helping parents and teachers understand the comprehensive benefits of all that wiggling!

That's why we say "A Moving Child is a Learning Child."

Friday, January 28, 2011

MOMMY CUDDLES: Why Rocking is Important... for Both of You

It’s late at night and you are alone with your newborn.

You rock him gently.
He folds his tiny body into yours.

Together, you are one.

As a teacher and life-long student of movement in early childhood development, I can tell you that the timeless tradition of rocking your child to sleep, is foundational for many aspects of his early development.
But as a mum of three daughters, and now a grandmum, above all, I know this to be true -- the Mum in you is born in that rocking chair deep in the middle of the night…

Soothing your child when he is stressed is essential for his overall well-being, and in this strange new world he’s been born into, rocking most closely resembles the familiar, comforting sensations of the womb.

But, chances are he’s not alone in looking for touchstones of familiarity. Now separated by birth, feeling the weight and warmth of his tiny body on yours is a closeness you both need and only the two of you can truly understand. I believe in those moments, the idea “I am Mum” is sealed.

The comforting tempo of rocking to and fro will help him understand that when he is in your arms his needs are being met. With that assured, over time he can begin to develop the ability to calm himself.

And there, rocking gently in your arms, is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give to your child.

Trusting that he is safe in your care can be a powerful influence on his overall disposition and outlook on life. A child who feels safe and secure is more likely to feel that the world is a good place, approaching life with a healthy, positive sense of curiosity and optimism, shaped and guided by you.

But I’m guessing, in those first tentative weeks, all of that must seem far away and maybe even a bit daunting. Here’s what I found – time together not only created my children’s trust in me, but gave me confidence in myself to be their guide.

The natural rhythm of rock-a-bye time contributes to your child’s overall sense of Body Rhythm – a critical foundation for his physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Body Rhythm actually begins in utero by the constancy of your steady heartbeat, and serves as a source of soothing comfort each time he hears it. 

More, as you rock together you are creating a rhythm all your own – that “sense” of one another you can’t explain, but is clear for all to see... and for all time.

Babies are not born with a sense of balance. It must be developed. Gentle, slow rhythmic rocking is one of the best, early activities you can provide to help them build foundations for balance and “get their bearings.”

Yet between the two of you, it may well be that you’re the one more in need of “balance.” Motherhood is overwhelming (especially the first time out), and chances are you’re not feeling your usual sense of control.  I wish I had the answers for you, but I don’t. Instead, I will leave you with these two thoughts...

1. You’ve had a child and your life has changed forever.   Lucky you!

2. Advice is nice, but only you know what’s important for you and your family. The faster you decide, the faster you’ll regain your “balance.”

Quite often, quiet time like rock-a-bye is associated with the concept of bonding and attachment, the process newborns go through in the first weeks of life that creates their sense of belonging.

Parents go through the same process of course, only it’s usually far more automatic and dramatic. In that single moment of birth, adults transform from “me” to “we,” instantly and forever, redefined by our own child.

That very redefinition, born of love, explains how in the wee hours of the morning, overcome with exhaustion, there can be no other place to be. 

And over the years, you’ll both return to this place time and again to gently rock away all of life’s boo-boos and disappointments, heartaches, misadventures, and uncertainties. Because here, safely in your arms, the two of you together as one, are sure…

Mum can always make it better.


  1. Great post. I was recently chatting to a friend whose sister has just had her first baby and is a single mum. I empathized that as a single mum she'd be really needing grandma's presence "as someone extra to rock the baby". But my friend responded with "yeah and other bad habits". I went silent as I tend to hang out with mums who are pro-rocking and I'd forgotten that there's still a strong feeling in our community that rocking is a bad habit! This post is a great reassuring piece that rocking is wonderful for both mum and bub. Rock on I say!

  2. I must share this site with a special friend who is pregnant with their first child. There is a lot of sensible, soothing advice here for all parents.

  3. Absolutely beautifully written and so true x

  4. Nice! So true. I learnt that from my mother who could 'magically' put my child to sleep while he would cry for hours if we carried him around.

  5. Thank you Gill. You sum up the awesome privilege of mother hood beautifully here. Thank You x

  6. Thankyou for this lovely article. I'm a first time mum and I adore rocking my little man. I do cop a lot of flack off a lot of people as he isn't the best sleeper and they all associate that with the rocking. My pour little dear has had bad reflux and I couldn't imagine leaving him by himself in pain to settle himself to sleep as these new books and many mothers now suggest. He is 8months now and hasn't slept through the night but I wouldn't swap any of the beautiful moments I've had with him in my arms for anything. They grow so quick I want to have as many cuddles as I can. I feel a lot better now knowing that I'm not causing him harm and am helping ready him for the future

  7. My babies (twins) are three and a half, and there are time when they still want me to rock them for a little while before they go to sleep. Having taught children's fitness classes for 8 years before I became an educator, I can totally see the connection between the rocking and balance gained from it. It also "balances" me as their mother, to hold and love them, even if it's for a little while. It reminds me that not only am I the meal provider, the laundry washer, the boo-boo kisser, and the referee, I am also the constant in their world, the provider of balance and comfort and security. And in that small, secret moment, I find that balance in myself as well.

  8. I know this is a late comment, but I really appreciate this post. So many experts now say that you shouldn't rock and snuggle too much, especially to sleep. I so appreciate those who understand and value this short-lived time in our children's' lives. My second babe is 10 1/2 months and at night my husband and I still rock her until she is mostly asleep, not because she won't go down without it, but because we know in only a short time, maybe a few months or maybe a few years, she will no longer let us rock her. We have to drink it in while we can!

  9. Children who haven't been rocked may not develop a sense of a steady beat...Part of the balance and rhythm mentioned above.

  10. Lovely and fine if you have only 1 child at a time- I had triplets- impossible to rock all 3 at the same time- they are now 3 and have a good sense of rhythm and can keep a steady beat.... So I think its about balance.

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