Babywearing is as old as mankind itself. In fact, some may debate that the ancient sling, probably made from animal skin or plant fiber nets, was one of the first man-made tools! It didn’t take our ancestors long to realise that the best way to keep their babies safe, content and warm and/or cool was to carry them in made slings and carriers. This enabled our ancestral mothers the ability to continue with their work and provide their maternal bond – and work hard they did! .
Nearly every culture has adapted a form of babywearing to suit their particular need – whether it is to keep baby warm, cool; to allow mother to bend forward to work or to crouch – there was always something that worked. Over the next few weeks we will be exploring a rich array of traditional babywearing styles from around the world.
Native American Cradle Board
The cradle board was a typical Native American style baby carrier typically made from cut flat pieces of wood or woven from flexible twigs such as willow. Moss, shredded bark, and animal fur was used for cushioning. The cradle board allowed mothers to continue working, whilst providing their babies with safety and security. The cradleboards were attached to the mother’s back straps from the shoulder or the head. For travel, cradleboards could be hung from the horse. It was quite customary for babies to be carried in this method right up to when the baby could walk.
From: Edward S Curtis’ The North American Indian
“My grandmas told me that you don’t decide when the child is going to give up the cradleboard, it’s the child that’s going to decide. They say the sooner that a child leaves or pushes away the cradleboard and doesn’t want to use it—that means they’re going to mature a lot faster.” —Maynard WhiteOwl Lavadour
“I learned to make these cradleboards by watching Mom, by helping her or helping my grandmother. Altogether I’ve made three sizes—infant, medium, and large. In my family, all the relatives that I know of kept their babies in boards. They like their boards. They want to stay in them and sleep in them.” —Agnes Goudy Lopez
“When you know of a child being born, then you prepare. You start making their clothes. We get the baby boards ready, and we have to keep to tradition. When a baby board is made, it has to be made in a day. You begin at the break of day and it has to be done before evening so the child will grow up to be a good person.” —Sophie George
(Excerpts taken from Native American Birthing Traditions, The Oregon Historical Society)