How to Rock Your Baby to Sleep

Bonding activities for every age

A young mother rocks her baby boy to sleep.
Christopher Kimmel / Getty Images

Every time your rock your baby, you provide her with the soothing sense of warmth and comfort that she needs, while also facilitating a deep bond between you. Rocking is an activity you can enjoy from the time your child is born, through her preschool years. It provides an opportunity to connect and meet your baby's physical need for contact, while also giving you a much-needed chance to kick back and relax. Many parents relish the one on one time that comes with rocking a baby. But how do you know if you're correctly rocking your baby? 

How to Rock Your Baby

Gently hold your baby in your arms and rock back and forth, either in a rocking chair or simply by moving your body. Most babies prefer slow, rhythmic rocking. If it's helpful to you, count "one, two" as you rock forward, and "three, four" as you rock back. As long as your movements are gentle and the babies head is being supported there's really no wrong way to rock them. Try different rhythms and speeds to see which your baby prefers. 

When to Rock Your Baby

You can rock your baby at any time of day, such as when you are feeding him or her, reading a book aloud, or just before bedtime or nap time. It may be tempting to rock your baby until she is completely asleep. However, ideally, you want to rock your baby until she is sleepy, but not sleeping, so that she learns how to fall asleep on her own in her crib.

Variations on Rocking Your Baby

  • Use a rocking chair or glider - The right furniture makes it even easier to relax into the experience of rocking your baby to sleep.
  • Hold your baby in your arms and rock your body back and forth - Remember that furniture isn't required. You can also just hold your baby and rock to your own soothing rhythm.
  • Place your baby in an infant swing or car seat and gently rock him or her back and forth - Always stay nearby, though, and follow your pediatrician's recommendations for limiting the amount of time your baby spends in the car seat.

Where to Find a Rocking Chair for Your Baby's Room

Keep in mind that you don't have to buy a brand new rocking chair. Your baby will love being held by you and rocked, even if the piece of furniture you're sitting on is gently used. So keep an open mind and see what you can find for an affordable price in your area. Try the following sources:

  • Freecycle - This website allows you to find items that others near you are giving away for free. 
  • Craigslist - Craigslist is similar to eBay, but it tells you who's selling items in locations that are near to you. As a safety precaution, it's best to arrange a meeting location in a public place whenever you're exchanging money. 
  • Yard Sales - Keep an eye out for garage sales and yard sales in your area.