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.
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
My son is 1 and rocks from the minute he wakes up until he goes to sleep, any feedback to what this may be.
Daddycool - 14-Sep-16 @ 1:28 PM
I've got two sons one who is 5 who has autism and one who is 3 and be constantly rocks, he can't speak a word yet and is very very naughty all the time, from getting up to going to sleep! Would this trigger anything for the rest of you parents?
Dan20000 - 25-Aug-16 @ 7:46 AM
My son has rocked since he was about 8 months. He is now 13 and still rocks with his headphones on while listening to music. He seems to do it to soothe himself especially after school or other activities that seem to leave him anxious. My son does not exhibit any behavioral issues or learning disabilities so I have never made him stop rocking. I thought he would grow out of it. He obviously has not and I wonder if it is something I should work with him to stop. I worry I have allowed him to become more dependent on the need for rocking by allowing it to continue. Does anyone that has rocked and is now older have any advice? Thank you!
Jes - 18-Jul-16 @ 4:47 AM
I guess the thing I don't understand is that some of the posts compare it to thumb sucking.We stop children from sucking their thumb.Why not the rocking?
KINDERteacher - 5-May-16 @ 4:59 PM
This box to type keeps freezing.
My daughter is seven and her neck swings slighty from left to right and back while walks or sometimes while listens in class.
Antony - 18-Apr-16 @ 7:05 PM
I'm glad more people are talking about this. I have all my life, and was shamed into hating myself for it by my family until I got out on my own. I would do it as quietly as possible after my mom came in because the bed made noise and flipped me onto the floor under the mattress, so afterwards I did it on the floor in my bedroom with the door locked only after everyone was asleep, and my mom would still wake up, kick the door in to see if I was in bed, and then flip out and curse at me for not using my bed, and even take the bed out of my room if I wasn't going to use it. My family all called me retarded for it. I never had other signs of any disorder, it was just my way of escaping and feeling self soothing and love.
Becks - 17-Apr-16 @ 3:56 PM
Hi I'm 14 and I started when I was 2 it helps me sleep and I will do it for hours. I still don't understand why I do it, I do it music and rock side by side
Ellie - 5-Apr-16 @ 2:59 PM
Apparently I rocked from being a young toddler.I always sat on my hands when rocking and wonder if this might be significant. I am trying to get to the bottom of my disassociation which dominates my adult life ( I am in my fifties). Any comments welcome.
The Suke - 1-Apr-16 @ 5:02 PM
I rocked as a baby,have done all my life I listen to music and work out my problems and doze off to sleep I am now 75 and still rocking when I meet up with my siblings they always go on about it.It has bever worried me,did not realise so many others are the same.
Robbo - 24-Mar-16 @ 8:27 AM
My Mother put my Twin Sister and I up for adoption just after we were born with theCatholic Archdiocese. We were adopted 7 months later.My adopted parents would say I would rock my crib across the room trying to falling a sleep and could not fall asleep unless I did this ...every night. At age 12 My Mom would come up and yell at me to knock it off because I was making to much noise and disturbing everyone in the household.So, I moved to the floor.After a while the floor was to uncomfortable...so I moved back to my bed to I forced myself to stop.I always felt my rocking was from lack of nurturing and a sense of abandonment.
Tracy - 10-Mar-16 @ 2:25 PM
I have rocked since I was a baby, I usef to rock my cot from one side of the room to the other...I still rock at night on my left side and I am 47yrs.I find that it really soothes me.....my husband doesn't mind/he is so used to my rocking now although sometimes I rock during sleep and this disturbs his sleep too
cuddles - 8-Mar-16 @ 11:35 PM
I'm 17 years old and I've done this since before I can remember,today is the first I've looked into this and it's made me feel a little better knowing I'm not the only one.
I have great difficulties getting to sleep without rocking every night. I never really understood why I do it, I often refused and made excuses not to stay at friends houses and overnight School activities out of embarrassment of rocking, and my foster parents didn't understand why I did it either. It just feels good to know it's linked to things such as Autism and Anxiety. A but of closure..
JAnonymous - 28-Feb-16 @ 12:35 PM
I have a 6 year old son who has rocked himself since he was a baby. At first it was in his high chair, then he learned to rock to sleep. He still rocks himself to sleep and says it helps him if he has bad dreams. I also notice that he rocks when he is anxious or unsure about something. It is a self soothing behaviour. He loves music and rocks to that as well. His last two teachers have expressed that he rocks, they have to tell us what they see and we appreciate that they do. He has never had any signs of a developmental disorder and we find him perfectly lovely. He may grow out of it, or he may not. Some kids suck their thumbs, some kids pick their nose and some kids rock.