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Children and Body Rocking

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 16 Feb 2018 | 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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My son is now 8 years old and has rocked since he was a baby. He also humms or says words repeatedly. like a mantra. He does have adhd. But is also deaf. He will rock to go to sleep. But sometimes he rocks when he's just sitting on the couch watching t.v. He will also rock and hum or do his mantra thing in the car driving down the road. I have never told him not to do it or made him feel like he shouldn't. I always thought it was just him soothing himself. We have asked him why he does it but he just says he doesn't know.
Tonya - 16-Feb-18 @ 6:17 PM
I’m 60 yrs old - I’ve rocked my entire life.I’m intelligent, productive, successful and I love to rock – perhaps the reason I love boating in the ocean making me very seaworthy.I started as a baby banging against a couch rocking hard and then my father bought me rocking chairs and built me a swingset in my backyard.I only sit in rocking chairs and own five at a time in my home. I probably rocked in the womb. Rock On !!
Rocker - 15-Feb-18 @ 10:18 AM
My 4yo does this and says choice words over and over. At first it was just “mamma, daddy” but now it’s any 2 or 3 word phrase on her mind at the time. Shes does this upon waking up and going to sleep. Also while watching tv and riding in the car. Basically anytime there’s down time and she’s awake. Tonight, she’s been awake all night, doing this..... I’m hoping she grows out of it, among other things.
Tb8791 - 11-Feb-18 @ 8:14 AM
Both my twin Daughters did this rockingall of there childhood up to adult hood. They both ended up with schizophrenia in there late 20s and now 31 and still rock back and fourth.
car - 3-Feb-18 @ 6:52 AM
My mom told me I started rocking or bouncing as we called it as soon as I could sit up on my own. I did it all through out the day and eventually began singing the same phrases over and over while I did it. I busted the springs out of all the couches and chairs in the house. My mom used the old cushions and set me up a spot against the refrigerator to do it. My back and head had to hit something for it to be comforting to me. I didn't grow out of this until I was almost 21 years old. I'm told I have a cousin who's 15+ years older than me who still does it.
Lrwells89 - 20-Jan-18 @ 2:27 PM
I'm 10 years old and I have been rocking since I was a baby. Everyone at my school ask why I rock and I just say I have been doing it since I was a baby. I always lay in my bed at night and I think to myself if anyone else has done this and I looked it up and there it was I was reading and reading and there was some things that are fake but some are real. I sleep in my room on my bed and I try to go to sleep and I try hard but I can't. So I sit up on my bed and go back and fourth. I never liked doing this because it makes me feel like I can't do what anyone else has done because I can't stop it's a feeling that I can't describe. And I always wanted to stop so for anyone who has the same thing as me you will be okay and will survive.
Princess K - 6-Dec-17 @ 9:27 PM
My daughter now 12 has rocked and hummed since she was very young. Other children have made fun of her but I've never tried to change her as I see it as a comforting method. She does it upon waking up and going to sleep. She's smart, sweet and gifted in some areas so I've never ever seen it at a disability. My other 3 children have never done it but they don't seem to have a problem with it and we just accept her love for rocking, singing and humming.
Barbie - 3-Dec-17 @ 1:32 PM
I rocked myself to sleep every night whilst singing the same five word mantra over and over again since I can remember. I think I even got quite loud. My brother and sister used to make fun of me. My parents didn’t seem to worry (I was the 3rd child!). When I was a teenager I rocked the same way to music lying down singing but not trying to go to sleep. I didn’t stop until I moved out of home. I had to concentrate to stop but I got over it really quick. No one else in my family did it and my kids never did. I’m not sure why I did it but I’ve always loved lots of cuddles with my family. Maybe I was self soothing. My big sister caused a lot of trouble in the house, maybe I was just escaping the drama. I was a daydreamer and shy at school but went on to finish at the top and became an architect and quite social. I have always suffered from low self esteem but am very happily living a blessed, balanced life. I don’t think my rocking related to any significant causes, effects or disabilities so just chill and enjoy your individuality.
Mary - 2-Nov-17 @ 11:38 AM
I have done this my whole life. I am 26 and still do it. I sit on my bed, turn on music and rock back & forth. My brother is 28 and also rocks to music, and my father and his mentally disabled sister did it when they were kids (I suppose that's where we got it from.) I do it when I stand too (side to side) but it's very subtle. I'm so happy to hear that other people do this. :) it relieves me and makes me feel a little less weird.
Chrissy - 27-Jul-17 @ 5:46 AM
Joshua loves to travel. When he is not travelling the world with his family, he is at home in Melbourne working as a computer programmer. He loves Australian rules football, cricket and sport in general.
Beth Bishop - 13-Jul-17 @ 9:41 AM
My daughter is 12 and has rocked as long as I can remember.She has physical disabilities and was non verbal until about three years ago.She's pretty smart and reading this I realise her rocking is probably more a comfort thing than a discomfort thing. I used to worry that she was in pain but couldnt tell me, so its been reassuringto read these stories.I'm sure she has lots of anxieties but now I wont worry about her rocking so much -one less worry for her to deal with.
Hal - 1-Jun-17 @ 2:08 PM
I rocked to music back and forth on the pillow in my room til I was a teen. I too just stopped one day and haven't had an urge to rock since. Today I was wondering what might have caused me to rock. So I looked it up on the web and came across this blog and decided to share my experience. I got good grades in school and went to college. Worked for 30 years at a city job and am now retired.
Cara - 27-Apr-17 @ 11:57 PM
I remember rocking back and forth while watching TV and rocking myself to sleep while humming.I grew out of it. I was really young usure the age.I remember it made me feel good and was comforting. I turned out just fine, just ask me.. :)
mypointofview - 10-Apr-17 @ 5:38 AM
Nearly 50 YO. Chiming in, as my sister and I were just discussing this and I was researching it. I rocked and would sing Mommy, Daddy, Sissy.... regularly and then would do it when I couldn't fall asleep until I was 12?. I turned out "normal" but fidget to this day and people do complain about me 'moving' all the time. Whether it be from ADHD or as some said, "needing more stimulation." I know when I am in deep prayer I start to rock too. I was a good student and have a BS in Sociology, so parents - do not worry too much unless other milestones are not being met. Apparently when I was little, it would drive everyone nuts, but self soothing can be a form of intelligence, because you are self reliant - which I am to this day. Some people stroke their hair, or rub their legs, suck their thumbs in secret. I would agree though, that rocking may be due to not being nurtured enough. Some children are 'clingy' and 'cuddlers' and if they do not receive their fill from healthy sources (parents, grandparents) they will try to make up for the lack of connection. It doesn't mean the parents did anything wrong, it just may be that that child needs ADDITIONAL comfort. Read the 5 Love Languages. It really helped a great deal in my getting to understand what others 'need' and how I can help. Good Luck People & Be Lovely!
Mama B - 22-Feb-17 @ 6:55 PM
Hi, I'm 39 years old and I did this most of my life, On the sofa backwards and forwards and in bed at night I would bang my head on and off the pillow. I made holes in the walls and the neighbours even complained about the banging my parents had to move the sofa and my bed from the wall.There is nothing wrong with me at all.(honest) :0) I listened to music all the time I did it and enjoyed it. For some reason when I met my partner 10 years ago at the age of 29 I just stopped. Just like that. Didn't do it again.. I don't know why or whether he filled the hole I was comforting but I just stopped.I wouldn't worry about it. I had actually tried to do it again because I enjoyed it but it doesn't do anything for me anymore. It does look like you grow out of it but when is different for everyone. hope this might help someone.
Kayla - 17-Feb-17 @ 7:16 PM
Well right now I am about 13 years old, and I will be turning 14 years old this March, and I have been having this problem since I was around 12 years old. I only rock back and forth when listening to music and I don't fall anywhere on the autism spectrum. My mother asked me if I think I have OCD, mainly due to the movements being repetitive, only rocking back and forth about 4-7 times each, and for only about 10 seconds at a time.
Madason - 31-Jan-17 @ 5:47 PM
I am 13 omost 14 and I'm still body rocking my mom says I've been doing to my hole life it doesn't hurt me and I don't have a real reason of doing I don't show sighs of Autism I don't mind doing it I just what to know why I've been doing to for so long.
Yuni - 7-Jan-17 @ 5:17 PM
My son has rocked since newborn he does it in his sleep and in school all day he rocks and at home everyday he is 4 years old now excellent in maths and his hand writing and spelling is of a much older child all the signs are there for autism but they won't look at him till he is 5 years old my 10 year old has autism to no melt downs but my 4 year old loves being home hates leaving me
Chelle - 6-Jan-17 @ 1:47 PM
I rocked from a baby till my teens . It used 2 b while watching TV then it was just with music. I had twin girls that both started rocking when they were6mths old. They rockon the sofa while watching TV but love 2 rock 2 music. One of my girls sits on her bed and rocks 2 music. When they rock they normally make noise ie talking singing. I never made noise when I rocked. I have a younger son and he has never done this.
Mrs k - 4-Jan-17 @ 7:57 PM
My son is 7 years old and he rocks his head back and forth and sings to fall asleep. Recently he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is high functioning. I always thought it was adorable they way he does this.
Nikketlou - 30-Dec-16 @ 1:39 AM
My daughter was 9 months old and she kept waking up throughout the night and trying to say something. She repeated it over and over. Finally I just let her down and said "go ahead". She went straight to the living room, crawled up on "her" chair and started bouncing....that's why she had been saying..."bounce". She will be 24 in 2 weeks and still bounces....a lot! She finally had to get rid of that old chair last year. She does suffer from anxiety and she says it soothes her. It annoyed a lot of people while she was growing up...she bounced so hard in the back seat of the car you could actually see the car moving while stopped for a traffic light!
VJW - 28-Dec-16 @ 9:11 PM
I have a 5 month old baby she rocks a lot I'm concerned
Cb - 13-Dec-16 @ 11:39 PM
@Beck I am so sorry that happened to you. I hope you overcome all of the problems that you've had because of your family mentally abusing you.
Th1984 - 9-Dec-16 @ 2:50 AM
My daughter has been rocking back and forth since she was a little girl. She is twelve now and she still continues to rock. She doesn't show any signs of ADHD. I asked her how she feels when she rocks and she said it makes her feel safe. My daughter was exposed to her father and I abusive relationship for ten years. I finally decided to leave him when she was nine years old. She still rocks but looking at my child I can tell she is a nervous wreck. I feel so bad for my child I may have initiated this type of behavior and doesn't sit right with me I am so hurt ??
Th1984 - 9-Dec-16 @ 2:33 AM
I rocked myself to sleep every night until I got married. Knowing what I know now, it was a way to block out the sounds of my parents fighting, to feel comfort in a situation of which I had no control, and to calm the anxiety caused from living in a violent home.You're welcome.
Angie - 31-Oct-16 @ 3:01 PM
My douchy brother that picked on me and pitted me against my other siblings and the neighborhood kids does this too.I call him Rock-A-Bye Brian (McIntosh).He did it all throughout childhood, and even I caught him doing this when he was 23 years old while visiting my parents house.I came into the house, and he didn't hear me.
nonickname1 - 17-Oct-16 @ 5:28 PM
I've done this since I was born. Still do. I'm 25 now. Mostly when I'm listening to music I will rock back and forth with a hum. It feels strange to sit there and do nothing. I can make myself stop but it's very uncomfortable. I rock/bang my head gently on my pillow when in bed. When I stop, I have to move another part of my body. Normally my feet or toes. It's very soothing. But stopping myself is like trying to hold in a sneeze or not scratch and itch and sooner or later I have to do it again.
Ally - 29-Sep-16 @ 12:42 PM
@Jimbohank - if it's not causing your any harm or embarrassment that's great! Glad you were able to tell the rest of us about it.
Rock a bye baby - 28-Sep-16 @ 12:50 PM
I have rocked to sooth my whole life. Loved to rock on my rocking horse as a young child. Not sure if that is where it started. I am in my 40's now and still rock while listening to music. It is very soothing. Probably will never stop. Also helps put me to sleep when I am having trouble going to sleep. Also burns some calories...lol...win win I say!
Jimbohank - 27-Sep-16 @ 6:34 AM
I have rocked ever since I can remember, I do it subconsciously and mainly in bed. I can stop if I want but it's uncomfortable, a bit like forcing yourself not to scratch an itch. I don't know why I do it but I'm 33 now and it has never caused me any problems. I mainly rock my hips/pelvis in different steady motions depending on what position I am sitting or laying in. Sometimes it's my feet I'm moving or knees.
Debbie - 16-Sep-16 @ 6:16 PM
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