Watching babies rocking back and forth can be pretty entertaining. Maybe they’ve just discovered a new way to use their arms and legs, maybe it makes a fun sound when they bump into the furniture, or maybe they’re grooving along to music (and melting your heart in the process).
But babies like to keep us on our toes, and sometimes the rocking can get so extreme that it leads us to wonder if something else is going on.
Let’s get to the bottom of your baby’s favorite exercise.
In this article: 📝
- Is it normal for babies to rock back and forth?
- Rocking might be a sign of autism if:
- What are the early signs of autism in babies?
- What should I do if my baby rocks back and forth?
Is it normal for babies to rock back and forth?
Almost all children will go through a rocking phase. It can happen at any point after they learn to do a press-up during tummy time, but each child will test out their movement and balance in different ways.
- For babies, rocking back and forth on their hands and knees is a way to psych themselves up for crawling.
- Side to side movement when sitting is a great core strength exercise and can help them to focus on a task.
- Young toddlers will often rock and roll their heads because it gives them a new perspective on things, literally (I can make mama shake!).
However baby chooses to do it, rocking is a way of strengthening their muscles and self-soothing. You did just spend the first few months of their lives rhythmically rocking them to sleep, so the movement = relaxation association is still strong.
Is rocking back and forth a sign of autism?
Babies rocking back and forth isn’t normally a sign of anything serious — as long as they’re calm and engaged while doing it.
Rocking might be a sign of autism if:
- A baby rocking back and forth while sitting is in a “trance-like” state and won’t make eye contact.
- The rocking is being used to dissociate from something overstimulating, rather than as a self-soothing habit in a calm situation.
- They are rocking very hard or against something which will hurt them (like forcefully banging themselves against the door while rocking).
- The rocking happens during the day instead of at bedtime.
What are the early signs of autism in babies?
As we said, babies rocking back and forth might indicate autism in certain situations, but this is also only true if it’s part of a larger pattern of signs and traits.
If you’re concerned that your child might have a form of autism, let a healthcare practitioner know. They’ll have a look at all your little one’s language, social, and communication skills. They’ll consider things like when your child is meeting milestones and ask if they’ve “regressed” and lost a skill they had before.
As you wait for an appointment, it’s a good idea to keep a diary of when the rocking (or other behaviors) are happening. Taking a video of your child while they’re rocking will also help your doctor.
What should I do if my baby rocks back and forth?
The only thing you should definitely do is make sure that your baby is safe while they’re rocking and rolling. For example, if they like to rock in their bed and there’s a nightstand with a sharp corner beside it, babyproof the corner so that they can’t knock their head.
It’s also possible to replace the rocking behavior with something else. You can encourage a nearly-mobile baby to stop rocking and start moving forwards by placing a toy just out of reach. Or you could give a baby who’s trying to rock themselves to sleep something comforting to hold instead.
Generally though, you don’t need to do anything to encourage your baby to stop rocking back and forth. If they’re enjoying practising their new skill, join in, be silly, and treat it like a game.
And heads up. You can find other parents going through the same thing in the Peanut community.
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Classical Music for Babies: Does It Actually Help?