Babies love cradles as they relate to the warmth and security they felt in their mother’s womb. Doctors and experts suggest that the cradling position is an important activity that helps a baby’s brain and body development. The movement helps to trigger your baby’s innate calming reflexes, a neurological response deep in the brain. A 2019 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that the magical mix of rocking, white noise, and swaddling evoked an immediate calming response. For babies, this rocking motion mimics the womb experience and hastens sleep onset, reduces crying, and improves overall sleep quality.
Infants enjoy a warm, snug, and gently moving sleeping space like their parent’s arms, which recreates a combination of all these things. But, parents can not possibly hold a napping newborn for the many hours they sleep every day.
The next best solution to this problem is a rocking cradle, which is very often a baby’s favorite napping location.
Benefits of cradle rocking motion on infants
Cradles aren’t just another yippie indulgence. It’s a product that has changed the way babies react to the world outside of the womb and how parents react to their newborns.
- Before birth, all of your baby’s sleep occurs in the cozy bed of amniotic fluid that sloshes and moves with every step and motion. In the womb, the fluid sway of movement is a constant sleep inducer, but after the birth, that movement is missing while your little one remains the same motion-loving person. That’s why lying them on unmoving, rigid crib surfaces can be unsettling to them, and are why they’re attracted to motion for sleep.
- Research shows that rocking a cradle helps in the motor skills development of your baby as they can freely move their hands in the cradle and interact with their parents as they can easily see their parent’s faces.
- Cradles create the safest sleep environment and minimize the risk of injuries. That makes the baby sleep longer and peacefully, which is very important for the growth of the child’s body and brain. A not so well-rested baby may become cranky and fussy all day.
- The automatic swinging of the cradle regulates the speed of the swing not to give sudden jerks to your baby and will make them feel comfortable while sleeping. The swing is adjustable per the baby’s comfort.
- The gentle rocking slows the babies’ heart rate and activates motion detectors in their nervous system. This inbuilt and instinctual response mimics the motion your baby experienced inside the womb.
Things to consider while choosing a rocking cradle
Modern baby cradles come in many models and variations, some even marketed as motion beds. Whether you’re thinking about using an old one or buying a new cradle, below are several things you need to consider to keep your baby safe and secure.
- Always choose a cradle with a sturdy and well-balanced frame that’s right for your baby’s weight. Lightweight cradles may be cheaper, but they can topple over easily and hurt your baby. Always look for the recommended weight and height.
- Ensure the sides have the correct height so that your baby is secure and cannot fall out of it.
- Choose a cradle with a firm base so that the beddings tuck in firmly. Beddings tend to bunch up in cradles with soft, curved bases and should be avoided.
- If using a wooden cradle, look for splinters or chipped edges. Some traditional wooden cradles have closely spaced wooden rails assembled with small metal bells and nails where a baby’s hand might get caught.
- If you’re considering a rope cradle, ensure it is firmly woven and, there are no frayed or loose knots. Choose a correct pattern to avoid your baby’s hands or legs getting trapped in the gaps between the strings or meshing.
- Some cradles also come with a lock to the locking mechanism and ensure that the cradle doesn’t rock on its own and can be of help if you don’t want your baby to get used to the constant rocking.
Safety precautions to keep in mind while using an infant rocking cradle
Most baby cradles are safe to use, provided you take the necessary precautions not to put heavy bedding or toys in the cradle that can cause overheating and are potential choking and suffocation hazards.
- The rocking cradle is, used until your baby can roll over by themselves. Babies roll over at around three months old. Once they learn how to roll, they can fall off the cradle.
- Ensure the baby’s sleep space is plain, clean, and safe.
- It’s best not to hang any accessories like toys or colorful tassels as they may pose a safety hazard.
- If you’re to use a mosquito net, choose that which fits snugly so that it won’t be dislodged by the swaying movement.
- Don’t move the cradle with the baby in it. It’s also a good idea to place a thin mattress or some rags on the floor under the cradle to cushion any accidental falls.
- Always be sure to have a good view of the baby when they’re in the cradle. Never leave a toddler and an infant in a room. Toddlers may accidentally rock the cradle too hard or they may attempt to climb in the cradle. Children should always be under supervision.
Will rocking a bassinet make me neglect my baby?
Of course not. A low level of rocking and shushing gives your baby a bit of help getting to sleep and back to sleep if they awaken.
Be rest assured that your little one will let you know if a feed or a change is in order. Your baby won’t feel ignored.
Are all rocking bassinets safe?
The truth is that not all bassinets are created equal. Some pose a danger to your baby.
Once your baby starts wiggling and rolling, the motion of a rocking bassinet can make it easier for them to become trapped against one side which is a clear suffocation risk.
Having a hundred percent of sleep occurring with cradle motion can lead to dependence, but other than that, those little ones benefit from a unique balance of the two; motion sleep and stationary sleep.
And until they have better neck control, the only safe way for them to sleep is on their back, on a flat, firm surface so their airway remains open for breathing.
Here are the AAP’s current safe sleep recommendations.