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Children and Body Rocking

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 17 Jun 2020 | comments*Discuss
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Body rocking or the repetitive and rhythmic self-rocking of a child’s body, is a common method of self-soothing in young children. Generally, children who engage in this behaviour will discover it around six months of age and will grow out of it by about three years of age.

Though it may be a little disconcerting for parents to observe, body rocking rarely presents a hazard to children. Rather than worrying, parents should observe the behaviour to better understand it and endeavour to keep their children safe for as long as they choose to engage in body rocking.

Understanding Body Rocking
Children often fall into body rocking as a method of soothing themselves, though sometimes they also body rock as a way of providing pain relief or expressing frustration. Many children softly rock in a rhythm that they find soothing when they are tired and some children regularly do this at bedtime to help themselves fall asleep. Other children do not engage in body rocking routinely but do turn to this behaviour when they are experiencing physical or emotional pain. Some children may also engage in body rocking when they are frustrated and unable – or choose not to – explain their emotions. Finally, other children body rock when they are humming or singing softly (or in their head!), which a simple discussion will help uncover.

Body Rocking and Developmental Disorders
Repetitive motions and behaviours such as body rocking are sometimes a sign of developmental disorders such as Autism, but they are not the only signs. If a child body rocks but does not exhibit any other warning signs then there is usually little cause to worry.

However, if a parent is concerned about a child’s development and observes body rocking and/or other repetitive motions then it would be wise to contact a GP, educational or child mental health professional for further information and/or a professional opinion.

Keeping Children Safe While Body Rocking
Most children who engage in body rocking do not do so with the intention of hurting themselves, but parents should remain vigilant anyway. Parents of children who engage in body rocking while in their cribs, playpens or beds should check that the motions have not loosened any of the pieces nor that there are screws or other pieces that could present a hazard to the child if they bump into them. It might also be possible to drape “bumpers” or soft linens on the sides of furniture and equipment to reduce the impact (and noise) of body rocking. Moving furniture or equipment away from walls may also help keep it intact and from making noise during body rocking episodes.

Body rocking is a behaviour that generally starts at around six months of age and tends to end by a child’s third birthday. Children may engage in body rocking for a variety of reasons, including as a means of soothing themselves, relieving pain or expressing frustration, though it may also be an indicator of a developmental disorder if accompanied by other signs. Parents who are concerned about their child’s body rocking, who observe body rocking beginning after the age of 18 months, or who notice their children engaging in loud or aggressive body rocking during the daytime, should consult their GP for further information.

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Hi fellow body rockers and head bangers.When I was a baby apparently my father would come and hit me because I woke him up with rocking in my crib. My mom would call to me from the kitchen, "Stop banging your head," when i rocked against the couch in the living room. I also banged my forehead on the bed/pillow. When I was dealing with childhood shames a few years back I looked at this banging my head. I realized I was soothing myself and that the rocking back and forth was similar to a kundalini yoga exercise and the Orthodox Jews shuckeling back and forth when they pray.I wonder if I was a kinesthetic type of kid with no outlet for it. Dr. Spick at the time wrote books telling mothers not to breast feed. I would not be surprized if I also was calming myself from stuff I picked up in the family dynamis that had conflict.One day as an adult I went to a center for blind people and they were all rocking back and forth. What a shock! I remember it as somewhat meditative, sitting rocking in the morning, looking at book titles o the shelves - maybe reflecting on the day. I till like rocking chairs. I probably stopped early twenties or before. But Is sometimes do that motion now, but not agaist a chair or wall.
Sha - 17-Jun-20 @ 2:50 PM
35 mother of two, my family called it bumping.I think it saved me from self destructive activities as a child and adolescent. I had a rough upbringing and I’d bump for a whole day sometimes. I just kept thinking I have a save myself for when life is good again, so that’s what I’d do, bump and bump.It’s so embarrassing, I’ve continued to bump. I call it meditating, it’s my favorite way to unwind. Although my husband doesn’t even know. My brothers and sister still tease me about how are used to bump all the time, having no idea that I still do!
T - 10-May-20 @ 10:31 PM
I came here to address the question that pops into my head from time to time, “was my childhood rocking phase abnormal?” I remember distinctly my mom telling me to stop rocking while we were sitting in the bleachers at one of my brothers baseball games. Maybe I was bored? In pain? Those bleachers aren’t comfortable. I would also bounce against most chairs with a back, especially couches. I remember bouncing against a theater chair and the lady sitting next to me nicely asked me to stop as I was making her seasick. My mom recognized her voice and it turns out it was the mom from the tv show Lost in Space that I was making ill. ?? I don’t recall when I stopped altogether, but probably in my teenage years. I catch myself doing it from time to time still but in a less obvious way.
LolaLeu - 27-Apr-20 @ 7:59 AM
I rocked and sang myself to sleep for years. It’s how I learned all the Beatles songs. I did it until I was at least 11 or 12. I transitioned to laying on my belly and kicking my right leg. I finally had to loosely tie my feet together after many painful encounters with the footboard. I continued to kick well into adulthood, but it would occur while sleeping. I’m 65 now, and for the last 10 years or so, I wiggle my feet very slightly as I go off to sleep.
BCGreen - 10-Mar-20 @ 5:55 PM
I rocked on all fours with my hands wrapped on top of my head, forward and back.. I would be under the blankets.. Sometimes for a long time. It was like a meditative state for me somewhere between sleep and awake. One of my parents would come into my bedroom and give my butt a swat, then I would stop. I did it up through high school but less over time. I remember the last time I did it was in college in the dorm on the top bunk. My roommate woke me up wondering what was happening. I was so embarrassed I quit doing it cold turkey.
Mr. gnarly - 8-Dec-19 @ 2:40 PM
I rock to the left,I rock to the right; this is just something that I do!Sometimes,I rock back,and then I rock forward too! Now,this might not be you,but I think this might have been a trait of the LOVE of my life,Christ JESUS of Nazareth,The Faithful and True!Well!
Ms. Rocker - 30-Nov-19 @ 4:00 AM
I can remember rocking from a very young age.I usually only rocked by myself and usually with music on.I would drift off into my own make believe world and found it very soothing.I did this daily until the age off 17.I still love having a rocking chair to sit in and rock.I believe it was a coping method because I had parents that never expressed any kind of affection, no hugs, kisses and sadly no “I love you”.Basically emotional neglect.
Flicka - 8-Oct-19 @ 10:34 AM
Very thankful to have found these comments.I am 76 and have until now thought my childhood rockingin rocking chairs and swings and then rolling in bed to humming and peaceful thoughts was abnormal and bad.I was an anxious child with emotionally distant parents.I outgrew the need at about 16. These comments of others mirror my experience.I was a lonely kid just coping.It was all OK.
Buzz Flyright - 20-Sep-19 @ 2:50 AM
the neighbor kids called me hammer head ,I did not mind .they were my friends ,against the couch , banging My head ...this started at 5 yrs of age . at camp outs in the car. and turned to rocking till I was in My 20,s
gorgie - 7-Sep-19 @ 6:02 AM
I have the same problem me reading this helped much understand a lot more I am 12 and I hate the feel of paper and dry objects I still rock and I think I Am autistic if I can't solve a problem in class I will get mad and freak out and I can't go to sleepovers and I am terrified to tell my friends and everybody calls me a migit.
Ryerye - 5-Apr-19 @ 4:15 AM
I rocked a lot until I was 18 years old. It was so soothing. I rocked so hard my mother had to tell me to stop. I thought I had a serious problem and I was afraid to be around my friends. I thought they would say I was crazy. I am 55 years old now. I found out that 2 of my grand-daughters rock as well they are 8 and 10. I wonder if this was inherit from me; but my son never rock. I pray that they are able to stop. I wish you all the best as well!
Sookie - 29-Mar-19 @ 2:55 AM
My twin brother and I, we rocked all our life to sleep. My brother died 2 years ago. I am 65 years old and still rocking. We also bit the nails all our lives. In addition I as a child was bedwetting and sucking a thumb.
Rock - 27-Jan-19 @ 7:35 PM
Well this was very interesting too read. I am 36 years old and never looked it up until now. I still roll going to sleep every night. But now that I’m older I wake up and my arms and fingers get numb like there a sleep. I really didn’t think there was others out there that had this problem.
lovemyson - 7-Jan-19 @ 12:47 PM
My son is two yrs and 3 months he rocks a lot and I'm really scared of the what ifs
Shortboss - 1-Jan-19 @ 5:23 PM
the way i rock is setting up a pile of pillows behind me, so i dont hirt myself. two big ones behind my back, and two smaller ones on top of the lower ones so my head doesnt hit the wall. it also helps with neck pain. i listen to soothing music until i get tired and eventually fall asleep.
rocker101 - 30-Dec-18 @ 7:55 AM
Im so glad to know im not the only one. ive been keeping my rocking a secret for 11 years now. and i am about to turn 12, my mother said i had to stop by middle school. but next year i enter 7th grade, (where i live 6th is middle) my mom isnt too worried about it but occasionally she mentions that i need to stop. i cant rock without music. i like to sing along to the music and rock, so i get lost in my thoughts, and the music brings me to another universe. it helps me forgot about the bad moments. and lets the good ones in..
rocker101 - 30-Dec-18 @ 7:49 AM
My son has been rocking since he was 4 months old. He is 10 now. He still rocks; we called it "swooshing". He's socially aware that other kids don't swoosh. And, thus, has limited where he swooshes. For example, he likes to swoosh in the car, but won't swoosh on the school bus. He swooshes before bedtime and upon waking. Sometimes, he swooshes while he is watching TV or very subtly swooshes back and forth while standing. Sometimes he hums, sometimes he is silent or sometimes he creates a short-worded song that he repeats over and over again. He loves swooshing to music. He's a well adjusted kid, very social, extremely empathetic, smart and aware. It's something he says that just relaxes him. His father rocked as a child, too. Buthad forced himself to stop in his teen years so he wouldn't be made fun of. His father still loves rocking chairs to this day. I find it so interesting, that their is a genetic link! :)
Lea - 2-Dec-18 @ 4:24 AM
My son and daughter both rock.Have rocked since they were babies.Never been a problems.My daughter's preschool called to say they thought she had autism bc of this.My children go to their pediatrician for their yearly check ups and any for any illnesses that come up in between.She has never found concern in their rocking and developmental health.After having previous problems with this school i took my daughter out bc of this call.The next day i was reported to social services for my child having autism (i guess they felt i committed a crime by not agreeing with them).The case was basically closed that day bc it was so ridiculous. I never thought my children rocking would get me into trouble.They enjoy it, it is self soothing.If their rocking is the most of my problems im doing pretty good.Just upset it went that far.Continue to rock on.
Bewmommy - 21-Nov-18 @ 3:55 PM
I rocked until 6 years of age, when my father had enough of the car shaking back and forth and made me stop. Soon after being forced to stop, I developed the horrible and unhealthy habit of biting the inside of my mouth. As an adult, I still bite my mouth occasionally, but have realized that some meditation with rocking greatly reduces my urge to bite. Monks and Yogis often rock while reciting mantras which results in a highly realized consciousness and a positive steady mind.
Bonsailady - 10-Nov-18 @ 2:28 AM
I’m a pregnant rocker. Will it hurt my baby? I am 8 weeks and I wish I could stop for once but I can’t. also it’s cool to know I’m not the only rocker in the world. this is amazingly beautiful
anitsirhcoj - 3-Nov-18 @ 3:50 AM
Both my brother and I rocked from toddler hood until adults. No rocking chairs just back and forth on chairs and couches. It was usually while listening to music but not always. Both of us worried when we got into our teens that our friends would find out so closing doors and curtains was a must. Recently I visited my brother who is now 60 years old and we talked about our rocking. We both agreed it was a way of soothing and handling anxiety. Better than other more destructive behaviors. I slowed down around thirty when I met my significant other and although I told him about it I did not feel the need to continue as much. Over the years it has faded but I still love rocking chairs. I have two children and neither seemed inclined to rock but they found other waysof coping with anxiety and not always positive. Everyone needs to find their way of coping in this life and I see the rocking as just another way to cope
reets - 27-Oct-18 @ 2:01 PM
My son is 8 now. He rocked straight out of the womb. He also usually hums to himself or sings when rocking. We call it bumping be ause that is more accurate. His doctors said as long as he is not hurting himself he will outgrow it. Honestly...I doubt it. But that's ok. He says "it makes me feel good". His teachers are aware and just let him do what he needs. At school he is more conscious of it because some kids tease. He has told his dad and I "thank you for not making me stop". So we leave him be. No signs of anything else going on. He is a happy, social boy. Admittedly I do worry that this might hinder him if it continues to adulthood with finding someone special to begin a family. But reading posts has made me feel better.
K - 21-Oct-18 @ 1:35 PM
My mom jokingly says I was bumping(rocking) in her womb. I bumped(rocked) well into my teen-age years.Like anothercommenter stated; I didn't want to be viewed as crazy so I made a conscious effort to stop! Recently at 39 I feel I need to purchase a recliner/rocking chair because it was soothing and what's missing in my life. I either would think(meditate), humm, and/or listen to music while bumping rather it was a chair or in bed pounding my face into the pillow.Now that I'm grown and care lol ess what others think I will revert back to what soothed my inner being!
KG - 16-Oct-18 @ 12:40 PM
I have rocked as long as I can remember. I would bang my head against the back of the couch so often that the metal rod in the piping was forcing its way out the top side of the couch. Rocking became such a habit that I found it impossible to stop, not that I really wanted to. My mother never tried to stop me even though it was becoming more of an "abnormal" thing to do the older I got. I could never understand why my mother did not try to seek help for me or try to understand the underlying psychological cause. I always rocked listening to music as I got older. Rocking to music was so soothing and was a significant coping mechanism for me. I found that I would need at least half a hour a day set aside to listen to music and rock in my rocker/recliner. A year after I separated from my husband, I no longer felt the strong urge to rock. I was 52. I always felt that there was something very emotionally wrong with me for rocking into adulthood. It has been good to read the comments to know that I am not alone!!
bbw - 6-Sep-18 @ 5:25 AM
Im 15 yrs old and I also rock while listening to loud music... Its feels so good but I never wanted my friends to know about this and I was able to Control it for a day when i had to sleep at their houses...I rock when im going to sleep but I also rock harder when im angry at something... I dont have any kind of mental or physical problems and im actually really good at school...I know it doesnt harm me and it calms myself because i eventually become tired and as well or even verter thanks somebody else...I actually see it as an advantage!!??
Dont Worry - 27-Aug-18 @ 10:50 PM
I am 72 years old I sucked my thumb into marriage. I realized if I wanted to be kissed I needed to remove my thumb??I rock standing up to this day I also rock while sitting. I have anxiety if I don’t move something . I am retired and going crazy so I volunteer,exercise and pray.
Buffy - 18-Jul-18 @ 11:41 PM
Momofchild - Your Question:
I’m looking for alternative methods to help my 15 yr old stop rocking. She has been doing since she was a baby. It is consuming her everyday life. She can sit for hours listening to music and rocking. It makes it hard to go to friends who don’t know about this and stay the night. PLEASE HELP!!!

Our Response:
We can't give individual advice on specific cases, but as the article says, your GP might be able to help.
KidsBehaviour - 18-Jun-18 @ 10:52 AM
I’m looking for alternative methods to help my 15 yr old stop rocking. She has been doing since she was a baby. It is consuming her everyday life. She can sit for hours listening to music and rocking. It makes it hard to go to friends who don’t know about this and stay the night. PLEASE HELP!!!
Momofchild - 16-Jun-18 @ 3:51 AM
I rocked myself to sleep till I was about 11. Then willed myself to stop. I did it to soothe myself and often cried myself to sleep while rocking. It was a terrible thing to live in fear. That was as a boy, now I only feel a simmering rage, if anything at all. But rage can be a great motivator when channeled properly. I look back and wonder what I would have done if I didn't have rocking? I am always fascinated by what the mind will do to protect itself. I also often wonder if I was made or born this way? The nature vs. nurture debate...my opinion is a little of both in my case. Personally, I would not change a thing. I love what and who I am.
Quietrage - 9-Apr-18 @ 11:05 AM
My 3.5 year old has done this since age 6 months I am still a little worried as I have heard once he starts school if he does that they may question him being emotionally disturbed or having trauma when in reality it is just relaxing to him.I do notice that when he is in pain or angry it gets more intense.Now my 5 month old has picked up on this and began rocking when on my lap.Is there anyway to get child to stop or an alternative parents have presented that works?
Staci - 11-Mar-18 @ 11:09 AM
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