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Children and Body Rocking

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 2 Dec 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 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
My mother told me I rocked as a child and I have no idea when I stopped. When I was 29 I had a sporting accident with head trauma throwing me back to my childhood. I again began rocking and haven't stopped since then. If the rumors are true I'll soon be 59!
still rocking - 3-Mar-18 @ 3:35 PM
This is such a relief that there are many others like me. My mom told me that I used to rock myself to sleep in my crib. From a young child, until at least the age of 24 when I moved out of my parents house, I rocked very regularly while listening to loud music. I've always found it very relaxing and I can do it for 1-2 hours, feel relaxed and then fall asleep. I used to really look forward to it when I would come home from school or work at that time. Now, I am 37. I rock very rarely. However, this week my Mother in Law has been in the hospital, I live with roommates and I have felt very stressed. I came home from my shift visiting at the hospital and rocked for an hour and no one was home. It was wonderful!
Always Rocked - 19-Feb-18 @ 2:42 PM
I rocked back and forth alot during my chid hood until about age 19. I force myself to stop because I did not want people to think I was crazy; however it was very soothing. I would become drowsy and fall asleep.I found out 2 of my granddaughters rock back and forth too. They are 7 and 9 years old.I pray they grow out of it.
Sookie - 19-Feb-18 @ 3:10 AM
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
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