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13 May 2014

How Rocking Affects Children’s Health

When a baby cries, parents instinctively know to rock the baby in their arms to sooth their little one. Likewise, gently rocking a baby in the cradle is a good way to lull a baby to sleep. Many nursing chairs are rockers too. The rocking motion helps the baby relax and digest their milk better. The rocking helps the mother alleviate small back ache and work out muscle cramps.

When a child gets a little older and starts to move around independently, a rocking horse can be a fantastic way to continue the health benefits of the rocking motion. Riding a rocking horse will almost immediately calm and relax the most rambunctious child. At the same time, a rocking horse will help a child develop their balance and coordination. For slightly older children, a hanging hammock chair can offer the same health benefits by allowing them to rock and swing as they think or read. As they rock, their thoughts become less jumbled and their mind becomes quiet and more focused. This can be especially helpful after a busy day at school or to wind down after an exciting event.

Hammock chair

Rocking horses are also known to be one of the best toys for stimulating the imagination. As a child rocks on a rocking horse, they can be galloping through a meadow full of green grass and wildflowers or cantering across the draw bridge onto the grounds of a medieval castle. Riding a rocking horse can also help a child open up and talk about suppressed emotions. This is why many child therapists have a rocking horse in their offices. This is also why a rocking horse makes a great gift for any child going through emotional difficulties such as parents divorcing or the illness of a parent or sibling.

The health benefits of rocking actually start in the womb. According to Dr. Anne Ayres, an occupational therapist and educational psychologist at the UCLA Brain Research Institute, rocking ten to fifteen minutes a day while pregnant can help the development of the foetal nervous system. Researchers in Thailand studying 120 pregnant women found that rocking and rhythmically patting the belly during pregnancy made the bond between mother and child stronger.

The kinaesthetic movement of rocking also strengthens the bond between parent and child after birth. Dr. Wendy Hanevold, a family therapist in Atlanta, Georgia, recommends that adoptive parents spend time each day holding and rocking their new adopted children to strengthen the new parent/child relationship. This can be made part of a ritual before bedtime and/or part of story time. The time a child spends with their parent or grandparent rocking is a treasured memory they'll never forgot.

Autistic children can benefit a great deal from sensory integration therapy involving rocking. Children with ADHD, ADD, pervasive development disorder (PDD), and tourette syndrome can also benefit from spending time each day rocking on a rocking horse and/or in a rocking chair. In fact, many therapists are now recommending that children with sensory integration disorders have a rocking chair and/or rocking horse in their bedroom. The Iredell-Statesville school system in North Carolina has added rocking chairs to their classrooms for their special needs students with ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, and other forms of autism. The rocking motion helps these students focus on what their teacher is saying in the classroom. Letting these same children sit in a rocker while doing homework can have a similar effect as well.

Although the mechanism is not completely understood yet, rocking can help cure sleep apnoea in premature babies. It is thought to be related to stimulating the vestibular system in the inner ear. Related to this, rocking also seems to decrease the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by stimulating the vestibular system during REM sleep.

Rocking offers many health benefits to the grandparents too! Rocking a grandchild can prevent and even cure varicose veins. It also helps soothe the symptoms of arthritis, especially in the knees. Alzheimer's and dementia patients show much less anxiety if they rock every day.

Finally, for all generations, recuperation after a surgery is speeded significantly by rocking, leading many hospitals to place rocking chairs in their recovery rooms. The natural rhythm of rocking harnesses the natural ability of the body to heal itself. The British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver uses rocking therapy to help ease pain and speed recovery time after medical procedures.