Holding and rocking a baby is very instinctual and any parent knows it feels wonderful. But did you know that it is also advantageous to your child’s development? Here are a few reasons why:
1. It helps digestion. According the Ashley Montagu, author of the book Touching: The Human Significance of Skin, rocking assists the movement of the intestine like a pendulum and thus serves to improve digestion and absorption.
2. It calms the baby. Researchers have found that we naturally rock our babies at the same 60-70 cycles per minute pace that they experience in utero. Also, the synchrony that tends to result in the parent and infants heart rate recreates the familiar environment that was so soothing in utero.
3. It helps the inner ear. Part of the calming effect comes from the inner ear, which maintains equilibrium. Rocking helps infants to find their place in space and ultimately to keep their heads up in a neutral position.
4. It helps promote healthy weight gain. A study of twins, where one twin was rocked thirty minutes twice a day and the other was not rocked at all, found that the rocked infant gained weight faster than the non-rocked twin in every single instance.
5. Rocked infants are better able to track visual and auditory stimuli. Professor Mary Neal’s study of rocked infants found that, not only were rocked infants better able to follow visual and auditory stimuli but, they also gained more weight than non-rocked infants in a control group.
6. It helps circulation. According to Montagu, “Rocking, in both babies and adults, increases cardiac output and is helpful to circulation; it promotes respiration and discourages lung congestion; [and] it stimulates muscle tone….”