When you first discover the happy news that you are expecting, the joy carries you further than you would imagine. Then, the reality of a new member of your family and all of their needs shifts your life into overdrive. Lists of necessaries begin to litter your counters, belongings are shifted to clear space for this being, and new furniture begins to arrive. And at least one piece of that furniture should be a rocking chairs. After all, the iconic American chair, the rocking chair, was originally built for mothering.
A Touch of Rocking Chair History
In 1742, a Philadelphia cabinetmaker wrote an invoice for “one Nurse Chair with rockers,” the earliest evidence of the rocking chair’s existence. (A “nurse chair” is a chair built specifically for nursing infants.) From the very beginning, we could see the potential for comfort in rocking with our children in our arms. However, no one knew how quickly the rocking chair would catch on, invading every American home by the 1820’s.
Happier Pregnancies with Rocking Chairs
While the rocking chair added style and comfort to each home, unintended consequences included many health benefits. They bind up the wounds of the soul as well as the body. When I sit in a rocking chair, I can feel the support and the soothing calm slip over me. I sit in a rocker most evenings, except when my mother-in-law comes to visit and co-opts the rocker. Our friendly rivalry regarding the rocker is based on our current injuries – my shoulder has a pinched nerve, her hip is stiff and painful. The rocker soothes both our aches. For us, it is the aspirin of chairs.
But none of this is new information. Rocking chairs have eased pain, promoted the bond between parents and children, and fostered healing from the beginning of their use.
During pregnancy, rocking chairs provide comfort to soon-to-be mothers by easing back pain. When rocking in the chair, the movement blocks pain signals from traveling to the brain. Famously, President Kennedy used a rocker to relieve his chronic back pain. This pain relief can have longer term effects as research into the use of rocking chairs by seniors resulted in a reduction of the need for pain medication. Because of the overall positive effect of rocking on our bodies, mothers who gave birth by Cesarean section healed faster. Anecdotally, a friend of mine (who is not pregnant) rocks each day to raise her energy and lower her blood sugar. Others have reported the calming effect of rocking improving balance and speeding healing for both physical and mental ailments.
Rocking the Baby
Rocking your newborn baby mimics the womb. When holding and rocking your baby, the child’s heart rate will slow, colic symptoms will be reduced and they will be able to fall to sleep more easily. Amazing how finding a familiar space helps your little darling feel calmer!
Additionally, premature babies have been shown to grow more rapidly and gain more weight with regular rocking. Their little bodies respond the same way ours do as the action stimulates and promotes healthy blood flow.
However, maybe the most important part of rocking your baby is that this action builds the bond between you and your child. Holding your little one in your arms while rocking them, you gaze into their face and find them there. These are the times where you create your own orb of love and warmth and safety.
After giving us comfort so early, the rocking chair continues this gift throughout our lives. The calming healing of the rocking motion benefits us through relieving pain, providing comfort and even making us happier.
So, when your happy news arrives, find the rocking chair for you. You and your new addition to the family will rock your way to a happier, healthier life together.
(We happen to have a brand new rocker, the Cio Ladderback Rocking Chair, which we think you’ll love!
- Witold Rybczynski, Now I Sit Me Down, From Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016
- Nancy M. Watson, Ph.D., RN, “Rocking Chair Therapy for Dementia Patients: Its Effect on Psychosocial Well-being and Balance”, American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, November/December 1998.
- Physical Therapy Review40:818, 1960.
- “Choosing a Rocker or Glider,” WebMD, August 3, 2014,
- RC White-Trout, KM Rankin, JC Yoder, L Liu, R Vasa, V Geraldo & KF Norr, “Influence of H-HOPE Intervention For Premature Infants on Growth, Feeding Progression and Length of Stay During Initial Hospitalization,” Journal of Perinatology35 2015, pp. 636-641.
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