It’s nearly impossible for parents not to rock their babies. It’s an instinctual dance. We’re born knowing that motion soothes our precious little ones. In some traditional cultures, mothers bounce their babies all day long or wear them in slings, offering a soothing motion with every step. But as any new parent knows: All of that rocking and bouncing and jiggling can be exhausting...especially at night when everyone needs their rest. Enter: The rocking bassinet, aka, a modern take on the old-fashioned cradle. Here, the science behind why rocking bassinets soothe babies—and how to do it safely.

The Reason Rocking Bassinets Help Soothe Babies

Newborns are very accustomed to rocking. After all, they’ve been jostled around in a uterus for nine months! And while it’s true that infants still love the soothing sensations they enjoyed in the womb, the motion of a rocking bassinet doesn’t help babies rest because it feels like they’re “back home.” Instead, the movement helps to trigger your baby’s innate calming reflex, a primal neurological response deep in the brain. Like most newborn reflexes, this one fades about four months after birth...but older babies continue to respond to the sleep-inducing lull of rocking because it’s now a “learned expectation.” This means that your baby now expects to get sleepy when rocked, and thus does! (If you’ve ever suddenly wanted to snooze while riding shotgun or while lounging in a hammock, you understand.) And this isn’t theoretical. Research in the journal Current Biology shows that rocking not only triggers our natural sleep rhythms, but it increases the duration of stage N2 sleep, which makes up the largest percentage of our total sleep time. And for babies, rocking and rocking bassinets reduce crying, hasten sleep onset, and improve overall sleep quality, according to research.

Is It Okay for Newborn Babies to Stay in a Rocking Bassinet All Night?

Absolutely! Babies have been lovingly rocked to sleep since the beginning of time. They want that rocking. And because babies are rocked nonstop in the womb, your little one is already hooked on this sleep cue from before Day 1. And, no, being “hooked” is not a bad thing...especially if rocking is accompanied by other soothing sensations, like white noise and swaddling. Plus, once your little one is about 6 months old, they naturally outgrow the need for rocking to help them sleep. At that time, it’s actually quite easy to wean babies off motion if needed.

The Problem With Baby Swings

While baby swings are amazing at calming babies and allowing parents a wee bit of a break, it is not safe for babies to sleep in swings—or bouncy seats, for that matter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should never be placed on an incline to sleep and never sleep in a swing. The AAP urges caregivers to promptly move sleeping babies from swings to a safe sleep surface. The reason: Your baby’s head can flop forward, possibly obstructing their airway, causing suffocation. And if left unrestrained, babies can also roll over and asphyxiate. For safe sleep, babies should always be on their backs, on firm, flat surfaces, without any pillows, blankets, bumpers, or stuffed toys.

The Safest Rocking Bassinet

The truth is, not all rocking bassinets are created equal. In fact, some pose a danger to your baby. Once your little one 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. This, however, doesn’t occur with the award-winning and pediatrician-designed SNOO Smart Sleeper Bassinet. Here, secure swaddling (another integral part of the calming instinct) is built into the rocking bassinet, which prevents rolling to an unsafe position during sleep. SNOO is so safe, in fact, that over 100 hospitals all over the world place their tiniest patients in SNOO. And the Food and Drug Administration has even awarded SNOO breakthrough status, which means it’s been fast-tracked for evaluation as a medical device that can potentially help protect against the terrible tragedy of infant sleep death (SIDS/SUIDS). (Research presented at the International Pediatric Sleep Association estimates that SNOO contributes to a 96% reduction in unsafe side/stomach sleeping, which is a leading risk factor associated with infant sleep death.)

Beyond the built-in safety: The constant calming womb-like motion and sound of SNOO works to add 1 to 2 hours of sleep each night, leaving both baby and parents well-rested.

Will a Rocking Bassinet Make Me Neglect My Baby?

Of course not! Dr. Harvey Karp’s award-winning safe sleeper offers babies a low level of rocking and shushing…giving them a bit of help getting to sleep and back to sleep if they awaken. If your little one fusses more, SNOO gives a bit more help. But rest assured, your baby will let you know if a feed or a change is in order! If, after a minute, SNOO isn’t calming your baby, that usually means your infant needs you. And, no, your baby will not feel ignored! A 2019 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that the magical mix of rocking, swaddling, and using white noise “evoked an immediate calming response” when parents soothed their infants solo—and when parents used SNOO. (In addition, researchers noted that the soothing effect of our smart bassinet did not wane as the infant got older.)

Bottom line: Rocking is an age-old method proven to help soothe babies to sleep that continues to work today. And the only truly safe rocking bassinet is pediatrician-designed SNOO.

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