Hey mom: Want to soothe your aching back AND your baby? You both may find relief in a rocking chair.
Motion can help calm crying infants, partly because it mimics movement in the womb. It can also help ease the lower back pain commonly associated with pregnancy and long, late-night feedings.
"In a rocking chair you change the angle that your pelvis rotates through," says Dr. Rowland Hazard, clinical professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Vermont. "Sitting in a regular chair can be uncomfortable because you stay in one position too long."
Hazard designed the BackCycler, a chair pad that inflates and deflates to provide the type of continuous motion that rocking chairs feature.
Hardwood gliders with comfortable upholstered padding are becoming the rocker of choice in many nurseries. Custom fabrics and matching ottomans complement the style.
No one knows exactly who invented the rocking chair, but the first models appeared in the American colonies in the 1740s. The design caught on quickly, and by the 19th Century, rocking chairs were a part of American culture.
President Abraham Lincoln was shot while sitting in a cushioned rocker at Ford's Theater. Chairs in that upholstered Grecian style are known now as Lincoln rockers.
President John F. Kennedy helped popularize the notion that rocking chairs help the back. He loved his American oak rocker so much that he took it around the world with him on Air Force One. An Internet retailer, www.newyorkfirst.com, sells a reproduction of the chair for $295.
The company says the secret of the chair's comfort is the steam-bent curve of the back, which sweeps to give firm support. A child-size version of the chair, called the John-John Rocker, sells for $95.
If you'd prefer the ultimate rocker with a custom fit, consider one made by Robert Erickson, a master woodworker from Nevada City, Calif. His artistic chairs – mostly made of American cherry, maple or walnut – are shaped to conform to the curve of the back.
Using time-honored bow-making techniques, Erickson curves the back slats by gluing three thin strips of the same piece of wood together and clamping them to a bent form. As many as 12 adjustments can made to the design of a chair, Erickson says. These include the position of the headboard, the length of the arm and the angle between the seat and the back.
"Because each of us has a particular style of sitting, fitting a chair is best done in person," Erickson says. If you can't meet with him, he'll send you a measurement card so he can custom fit your chair.
The chairs range in price from $3,800 to about $6,000. Erickson can be reached via his Web site, www.ericksonwoodworking.com.