We all know that movement is a great way to calm babies and help them get to sleep, be it rocking them in our arms, taking them for a stroll in the pram or even the 2am drives in the car! (Think we can bill them for the fuel expenses when they turn 18?). Did you know though, that movement is far more important than just satiating their cries?
Benefits of Swinging
Babies are born used to movement having experienced it in the womb. Who went for their baby scan and saw their baby wriggling away or felt them doing somersaults in their cosy little home in your tummy?
Movement helps with development, it helps soothe them, and if you have something to put them in which swings, it can keep your little one calm and frees your arms to get stuff done!
“I’m actually a fan of swings if used appropriately. One of the benefits of swings off the top of my head are having your arms free! The swing can do a great job to calm your baby while the movement soothes and occupies them. Many parents find that swings can calm a crying baby when nothing else seems to work!”Dr Syeda Amna Husain, M.D., FAAP.
Movement has always been in our blood. Since the time we walked the earth as homosapiens and swung from vines in the tree canopies, so it comes as no surprise that there are many benefits to swinging/rocking babies, these include:
Stimulating our bodies’ sensory systems
namely our vestibular system (I’ll come onto this shortly) and proprioceptive system.
May help with colic
It certainly did with our first boy! Further research suggests this could be because the consistent motion of the swing can help encourage excess air to move through your little one and ease colic pains.
Mimics the womb
…so it helps calm and relax your baby.
Keeps baby cool
The constant movement allows air to circulate faster around your baby, keeping them cool in the process (think opening the car window whilst going for a leisurely drive).
What is the Vestibular System?
The vestibular system is an essential part of the balance system for our bodies. It sends feedback to the brain about the position of our head. Along with the visual system (our eyes), proprioceptive system (muscles and joints), it communicates with the cerebellum which is our body’s balance and movement control centre.
The vestibular system is sometimes referred to as the “sixth sense” (no, not the movie…but what a great twist, right!?).
Vestibular system – the facts
Here’s a few quick facts about the system:
- It’s one of the first systems to develop whilst baby is in the womb.
- It communicates with our brain to keep us balanced by coordinating head and eye movement.
- It keeps us feeling safe whilst moving by helping us orient the space around ourselves.
How is swinging linked to the vestibular system?
Ok, so how does swinging and the vestibular system have anything to do with each other?
Swinging, as well as other movement such as gentle rocking, bouncing, spinning all help stimulate and develop your babies vestibular system. As your baby gets older and moves into toddlerhood, it’s important to continue stimulating this system as it helps develop muscle tone by coordinating with the proprioceptive system.
What happens if we have an underdeveloped vestibular system?
Our vestibular system, just like every system has a tolerance level or threshold, however this level is different for every baby and adult! A few signs of people who have a low vestibular input threshold:
- Difficulty in maintaining attention or focus
- Motion sickness / travel sickness
- Lack of spatial awareness
“Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.”Moshé Feldenkrais.
I think this sums it up perfectly! We thrive off movement so it’s important we nurture this from birth for our little ones and using swings are a great way to help you do this.