The “thooLi’ as it is called in Tamil is still used by some mothers to rock their babies to sleep. As this old blogpost explains, “The thooLi is a traditional baby-rocker; it's an old, soft saree or veshti (dhoti) tied to a rafter beam, or a hook in the ceiling. Sometimes it comes with a cross-bar, sometimes not. It provides a snug bed for the baby, which the mother can rock, too; and it's simple and inexpensive”. The post carries some pictures of an ‘engineered’ thooLi.
What is striking about these thooLis is the extensive and almost violent rocking that is done by mothers. The faster the movement, the quicker the baby is subdued and made to sleep.
I was reminded of the thooLi when I was reading a book called “ How Eskimos keep their babies warm” by Mei-Ling Hopgood. In one of the chapters she quotes a child specialist who stresses the role of vestibular stimulation.
Deep in the inner ear, nestled next to the cochlea (the small shell-shaped organthat enables us to hear) there is an intricate maze of canals and ducts called the vestibular system. This crucial network contributes to our ability to balance ourselves, maintain our posture, fix our gaze and move in a coordinated way. Stimulation of this system – through rocking, spinning and other movements- has been shown to have a significant positive influence upon arousal level, visual alertness and tracking behaviour, motor development and reflex development. Some research suggests that vestibular stimulation improves cognitive skills and mother-infant attachment.A child who is being carried, rocked or played with vigorously, or even carried in a sling, moving with his mother or father as they go about their daily business, gets more vestibular stimulation.The baby’s head is being tipped right and left as the mother working in a plantation moves, for example, as she leans over to put seed into the ground. The baby is getting a lot of vestibular stimulation – a lot more than it would get if it were in a pushchair or pram, which tend to travel straight, more so because people don’t want to tip them as the child might fall out”.
So, bring those thooLis back. And abandon those strollers. In the interest of vestibular stimulation.